Jack Ryder, Microsoft's Chief Financial Officer of Americas Finance, discussed the evolving role of the CFO during his presentation to Argyle's CFO membership at the 2018 Financial Leadership Forum in San Francisco on February 14. In his presentation, "Modern Finance Transformation," Ryder offered tips to help CFOs keep pace in a fast-moving global marketplace.
According to Ryder, the modern CFO faces a wide range of challenges. This professional must help a business deploy state-of-the-art technologies to drive revenue growth and become more productive and efficient than ever before. At the same time, a CFO must ensure a business maintains compliance with various industry regulations.
"We want to help people save time and money, all within the appropriate underpinnings of controls and compliance," Ryder stated.
The modern CFO must determine the best way to measure his or her performance. That way, this professional can take a data-driven approach to drive improvement and transformation.
"You have to find a way up the value chain. Otherwise, you run the risk of being replaced by a robot at some point."
With the right metrics in place, a CFO can evaluate his or her impact on a business. Then, this professional can implement changes as needed and become a difference-maker within his or her company.
"We measure [finance's] performance and our team's performance … based on impact," Ryder said. "We are the CFOs of our businesses, and we need to drive impact for the thing that we are accountable for in our businesses."
Furthermore, a CFO must balance a company's short- and long-term goals. To do so, a CFO may focus on the following areas:
- People: Having the right talent in place is essential for a CFO. If a CFO allocates time and resources to find and retain top talent, this professional can boost the likelihood of long-lasting success.
- Prioritization: A CFO must establish priorities in his or her day-to-day efforts. If a CFO establishes a plan, this professional can determine the best steps to accomplish his or her goals.
- Partnership: A CFO must be ready to collaborate with multiple departments within a company, as well as third-party vendors. By fostering partnerships, a CFO can work in conjunction with others to achieve the best-possible results.
- Protection: A CFO is responsible for safeguarding a company's financial data, and failure to do so could put a business, its employees and its customers in jeopardy. "We need to make sure that we are protecting the assets of the company and have the right level of compliance," Ryder noted.
A CFO must become a great communicator within his or her business. This professional must be willing to collaborate with others and look beyond the transactional aspects of finance.
"You have to get out of the transactional work, and you have to emphasize business partnerships," Ryder indicated. "You have to find a way up the value chain. Otherwise, you run the risk of being replaced by a robot at some point."
In addition, a CFO must incorporate data analysis into his or her everyday operations.
"There are different ways to process data. Some of that involves business intelligence tools, and some of it revolves around advanced intelligence activities."
There is a tremendous amount of structured and unstructured data available to CFOs. Yet few CFOs understand exactly what it takes to collect this information and transform it into meaningful business insights. But with the right data analysis technologies in place, a CFO can use data to drive long-lasting transformation across a business.
Business intelligence (BI) tools are quickly becoming pivotal for CFOs. These tools help CFOs capture insights that they may struggle to obtain elsewhere. Plus, BI tools help CFOs consistently maximize the value of data.
Many CFOs are using machine learning to automate their data collection and analysis activities as well. Machine learning tools are readily available and simple to deploy, and they have been shown to help companies streamline their data collection and analysis efforts. Moreover, machine learning tools may help businesses save time and money.
"Insight is great, but action is the thing that matters," Ryder said. "There are different ways to process data. Some of that involves business intelligence tools, and some of it revolves around advanced intelligence activities."
CFOs should be ready to identify new technologies that they can use to bolster productivity and efficiency. The technology landscape is constantly evolving, and CFOs who fail to deploy data analysis technologies and other best-in-class tools put their companies in danger of falling behind the competition. But if a CFO is open to transformation and embraces opportunities to find and implement new technologies, this professional can play a vital role in his or her company's growth for an extended period of time.
"Are you using interactive dashboards, or are you starting to use machine learning? … There are now technologies that you can apply to become more efficient or more effective," Ryder noted.
Jack Ryder is CFO of Americas Finance, an area with revenue of over $30B and more than 8,000 employees. The Americas team works in partnership with Microsoft's sales, marketing and services leaders to drive revenue and marketing efforts across a broad set of enterprise, mid-market and small business customers across the US, Canada and Latin America.
As Americas CFO, Jack leads a team that is responsible for providing business insight through revenue, profitability and resource analysis, business planning and business excellence through controls, compliance and audit activities and personnel leadership through development of the area Finance community.
Prior to joining Americas Finance, Jack held a series of finance leadership roles at Microsoft including the General Manager of Microsoft Western Europe, Senior Director of WW Small and Medium Solutions and Partners (SMS&P) segment and Director of the Microsoft Business Solutions Business Group. Prior to that, Jack worked at JD Edwards/PeopleSoft and IBM Global Services.