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Does the CFO need to become a technologist?

Thor Olavsrud | May 26, 2014
Technology like big data analytics is disrupting roles throughout the enterprise, including the CFO role. Today's CFOs need to understand how technology can help them do their jobs.

big data analytics, big data, CFO

Technology today, particularly big data and analytics, is disrupting roles throughout the enterprise, whether it's the CIO that needs to seek new ways to be a strategic partner to the business or the CMO constantly faced with decisions about technology that can make the marketing function more data-driven and efficient. Even the CFO role is not immune.

"The CFO doesn't really have to be a technologist, but they have to understand how the power of technology can help them do their job," says Nicole Anasenes, CFO of enterprise software solutions specialist Infor. "The pressures on the CFO are not terribly different than they've always been, but the interconnectedness of the world and the rate of change adds to it. They need to react to change quickly with speed and flexibility."

Anasenes was a panelist at the Bloomberg CFO Summit this week on the topic: "Dealing with New Technology and Building a Business Case for It."

In today's business world, Anasenes says, the CFO is focused on reducing costs, speed (especially improved time to value) and flexibility — all achieved in a secure way. Technology, particularly cloud computing and analytics, is the key to improving in all three areas.

Anasenes was joined on the panel by Mike Olson, COO of Hadoop specialist Cloudera. To remain effective in today's technology-driven world, Olson says the CFO must seek to strengthen relationships throughout the enterprise.

"The CIO or a line of business leader is a key ally in thinking about these new capabilities," he says.

However, he notes that it's important to consider that the CIO and line of business leaders often come from different perspectives. In general, the CIO will tend to view the world through a lens of cost containment, he says. In the analytics space, they tend to first be attracted to the potential for cheap and deep storage that drives costs down. But once the infrastructure allows the enterprise to put all of its data in one place (as in the enterprise data hub model Cloudera uses), new analytic workloads emerge — like fraud detection.

Line of business leaders, on the other hand, focus more on revenue-generating projects in the analytics space. For instance, they might want to pursue behavioral analytics that give them a 360-degree view of each customer.

"That's going to give you much better targeting or engagement as a result," Olson says.

Data Should Be an Asset on the Balance Sheet
As more and more businesses tap the power of their data, Olson predicts that data itself will become an asset on the balance sheet that CFOs will have to reckon with.


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