Today’s Leading-Edge CFOs Not Confined to Just Large Companies, New Survey Finds

Finance taking more strategic role in middle-market businesses, investing resources in automation to streamline back-office processes while impacting front-office decision-making

LOS ANGELES – Sept. 17, 2014 – Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) at large organizations have undergone a profound transformation over the past decade, assuming more strategic responsibilities in addition to their traditional finance and accounting tasks. Now it appears that mid-market company CFOs are doing the same, a new survey posits.

These leading-edge CFOs are being called upon to carefully direct technology investments towards systems that enhance budgeting and forecasting, as well as back-office processes such as account reconciliation and account analysis. Just like their counterparts in larger organizations, CFOs at middle-market companies are increasingly being viewed as “agents of change,” according to the survey of more than two hundred middle-market senior executives from diverse industry sectors.

The survey, conducted by the online publication Middle-Market Executive and sponsored by finance controls and automation software leader BlackLine, underscores the growing sophistication of CFOs at middle-market companies. More than 60 percent of survey respondents said their accounting and finance professionals are in the process of strengthening their change management skills to address the function’s expanding responsibilities and priorities.

Driving the transformation of finance is the need for middle-market companies to simplify decision-making processes, given the competitive necessities of speed and agility in today’s global marketplace—not to mention the dizzying pace of business. More than two-thirds of respondents cited efforts by their finance organizations to improve the access and assessment of enterprise data for use by line-of-business (LOB) decision-makers. Three-quarters of the executives further stated that faster access to this information would assist more assured strategic decisions, informing, for example, on when to seize a particular business opportunity or rapidly alter course.

The survey also noted obstacles impeding this quest at many middle-market companies—chiefly scant resources and shrinking financial teams. Nearly one-third of respondents said that “limited finance resources and personnel” had prevented the adoption of new technology tools. But for the most part, the survey indicates significant progress in the flow of information to business decision-makers, as middle-market CFOs assume more strategic responsibility to invest in desirable technology solutions.

Key survey findings include:

  • The top processes that middle-market companies are automating are budgeting and forecasting and the period-end close, cited by more than fifty percent of respondents.

  • More than one-third of middle-market companies are currently automating processes for account reconciliation, account analysis and journal entry allocations.

  • More than half the respondents cited Cloud-based applications as helping their organizations reduce cost and the time needed to facilitate faster and more efficient enterprise data analysis and assessment.

“The import of the survey is that just like at large enterprises, the CFO in middle-market companies is riding hard on strategic technology investments that improve decision-making around budgeting, forecasting and the period-end financial close,” said Jack Sweeney, editor-in-chief at Middle-Market Executive. “Such organizations see value in the adoption of new tools, despite limited financial resources.”

Click here to download a complimentary copy of the complete survey and white paper featuring a comprehensive Q&A with BlackLine client Atlas Air Worldwide on how technology is impacting the company’s accounting and finance organizations.