Move into strategic roles challenging finance teams, survey says

Finance teams are taking a stronger role in strategy setting. But they’re encountering obstacles while doing so, according to a recent Deloitte survey.

Previous “CFO Signals” surveys have shown that CFOs are spending increasing amounts of time in strategist and catalyst roles. The most recent survey, which covers the fourth quarter of 2011, shows that organisational demands are shifting the focus of the rest of the finance staff as well.

The survey, which was released last month, asked CFOs from across the US, Canada and Mexico to name their top three finance organisation challenges. The most popular responses indicate finance staff’s role in strategic initiatives.

“Providing metrics, information, and tools needed for sound business decisions” and “influencing business strategy and operational priorities” were atop the finance organisation challenges list, each with votes from 43% of CFOs. Influencing business strategy rose from 35% in the previous quarter, and providing metrics decreased slightly.

“Ensuring initiatives achieve desired business outcomes” received votes from 41% of CFOs, a sharp increase from 20% in the previous quarter.

CFOs’ answers in the survey suggested that their staffs need training to perform in a strategic role. When asked to rate the need for specific competencies in their organisation, 75% indicated that their staff’s analytical acumen – the ability to access, analyse and present information for decisions – needs to improve. Sixty percent said they need to improve their staff’s political acumen – their ability to get decisions, consensus and action.

The top job stress CFOs cited was major change initiatives such as mergers and acquisitions, IT systems changes or initial public offerings. Forty-nine percent of CFOs chose change initiatives as one of their top three job stresses.

Changing regulatory requirements (43%) and strategic ambiguity (42%) were the next-highest job stresses reported.

Ken Tysiac ( is a Journal of Accountancy senior editor.