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Thursday, December 13, 2012

SAP CFO on the Evolving Role of the CFO

At the recent CFO Dimensions conference in Chicago I was invited to interview a number of CFO participants for the CFO Intellectual Exchange Network (IXN).

There I met Thack Brown, SVP and CFO of SAP Latin America.  He had participated in a panel discussion about the evolving role of the CFO in the technological enterprise.  Priorities are about managing growth and dealing with risk.  I was immediately impressed by how much he was interested in the value of  emergent technologies, my own specialty.

Today the CFO  is responsible for more cost cutting and governance needs within the enterprise than ever before.  They also have to work with executives and members of the board who today use many technologies that they were removed from in the past.  They use these same technologies themselves to communicate with and analyze massive amounts of data.   Further, as CFOs of a well known technology company,  they act as examples of how these rapidly changing technologies can provide real value.

Mr Brown emphasized the need for his role to both understand the needs of his region, the interaction with clients and employees, and the need to focus on the corporate  forecast.  All of this is now is increasingly done via global and mobile interaction.  There are no crystal balls, but they are now more often held to financial and technological forecasts that need to be made and met.

It is often necessary to quickly bring together teams to solve both strategic and tactical problems.    And to provide the right data and technological expertise to make those solutions efficient and the best possible.  This all requires quick and effective collaboration to drive the solutions home.  Managing risk and driving  growth,  key CFO responsibilities, cannot today be done without collaboration and technology.   All today driven by SAP solutions in the enterprise, even within SAP itself.

His own role has shown him that emerging markets are often the key to making this work.     He has become impressed regarding the innovation and creativity that is coming out of Latin America, a region that is often forgotten as a nexus for enterprise technology.  In the coming decades we will see more innovation and results coming from Latin America.

I was very impressed by his description of how the CFO role is evolving.  Its fast and it is happening everywhere.  This is a very big change from when I worked with executives seeking guidance using data just a few decades ago.   Today they are well aware of the power of technology, and how it is being used by every employee, from new hire, to regional CFO to CEO.

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