Speak Up! Understanding The Importance of Communication and Presenting For CFOs and Their Finance Teams

by Daniele Tedesco

When I first entered the world of FP&A roughly 15 years ago, the role of a CFO seemed pretty simple. In essence, it entailed keeping the books straight, reporting on your company’s finances, and minimizing risk.

Today, however, the role of CFO has been transformed dramatically. Modern CFOs are now expected to play a vital role in steering a company’s strategy and need to be able to instill financial approaches that have a measurable impact on their company’s performance. I like to think of today’s CFOs, as Accenture once put it, as architects of business value.

Sometimes, when I think back to my rosy self when I was first starting out my career, I wish I had more people and tools at my disposal to help prepare me for this radical change. That’s why we’ve launched the Apliqo Masterclass series with Jack Alexander; to help today’s CFOs better prepare for the new challenges of their role.

In the first 2 installments of our Masterclass we looked at the COVID-19 pandemic and its effect on FP&A, as well as Scenario Planning and its ability to help us better prepare for the uncertainty of the current business climate.

In our 3rd Masterclass, we’ll look at Communicating and Presenting, two aspects of FP&A that often go overlooked, yet have a huge impact on your finance team’s ability to drive value for your company.

The Challenges Of Communicating FP&A

CFOs and their finance teams now occupy a central role in guiding a company’s strategy and increasing its performance. Rather than just crunch numbers, today’s CFOs need to be the voice of reason that helps guide the decisions made by key stakeholders in their organization.

Unfortunately, in my experience, the ability for today’s CFOs to fulfill this new, complex role is often undermined by their ability to communicate. Some of the most crucial barriers stopping CFOs and their teams from communicating effectively include:

  • The accounting mindset. If you’re reading this, chances are that (like me) you received a pretty stock-standard finance education; an education designed to help you become a bean counter rather than a business strategist. Unfortunately, the traditional accounting mindset many of us adopted during our formal education can be detrimental to our ability to drive value for our company because it leaves us seeing much of our work as little more than a “finance drill.”

  • Financial literacy. Don’t worry, the blame isn’t all on you! As finance professionals, we often forget that the people we’re reporting to don’t always speak our language (and we often don’t speak theirs, either). This can create many challenges when it comes to breaking down and communicating our reports and analysis to other members of our organization, and can create roadblocks that hinder our ability to collaborate productively with the rest of the company.

  • A lack of time and resources. Many CFOs and their finance teams simply don’t have the time or resources to reflect on their workflow and efficacy. Sometimes, this can be a side effect of the accounting mindset I mentioned earlier, which can leave us so buried in Excel spreadsheets and finance procedures that we can’t see the bigger picture of our role in the company.  

These challenges (and many more) are often deeply ingrained into our workflow and mindset, and overcoming them can take time as we break down old habits and reinvent ourselves as modern CFOs. It is, after all, hard to teach an old dog new tricks.

How To Start Effectively Communicating And Presenting

In our upcoming Masterclass on April 15th, Jack Alexander will share his top tips for helping CFOs and their teams improve their communication skills. Some of the areas he will touch on include:

  • Knowing  your audience. Just like marketers need to be inside the heads of their consumers to ensure their message has traction, so do CFOs. Rather than presenting the same old spreadsheet or data at every meeting, actively encourage your team to think about who they are presenting to, and how to best reach each of their individual audiences.

  • Data visualization. Leveraging the right tools to create interactive and insightful visual representations of your analysis can help you break down the numbers and finance jargon into something more digestible for the non-finance people at your company.

  • Developing a messaging strategy. It takes a solid strategy to communicate properly. In our upcoming Masterclass, Jack will help you get your head out of Excel and build a communications plan that’ll help you translate your most important findings to your many different audiences.

With over 40 years of financial leadership experience, Jack Alexander has turned to advising, coaching, and writing to help CFOs and other finance professionals adapt to their rapidly changing environment. At Apliqo, we’re proud to have Jack on our team and have him host these in-depth Masterclasses.

Make sure to save your seat at our upcoming Masterclass on April 15th for an in-depth breakdown of Jack’s tips for improving your communication and presenting skills.