Tactical activities relentlessly consume time and attention. To free up time for the strategic, you need to consciously change the way you work.
“So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath, one day closer to death”.
Pink Floyd, the Dark Side of the Moon
Recently, PayScale surveyed more than 6000 people in the finance function across the United States. The survey listed out the range of tasks a CFO typically performs correlating them to the common career path and average pay scales for CFOs.
Based on the survey feedback, PayScale summarized “Most notably, facility with skills such as Strategic Planning, Financial Modelling, and Risk Management / Risk Control are correlated to pay significantly above average, leading to increases of 26 percent, 16 percent, and 5 percent, respectively. Those listing General Ledger Accounting as a skill should be prepared for drastically lower pay. Human Resources and Budgeting also typically command lower compensation”.
Is Strategic Planning Important for a CFO?
The sample surveyed is large enough to suggest that this inference can be trusted. Simple common sense also suggests this makes sense. Strong focus around risk management, robust financial modelling and sound strategic planning add more value to a company in the medium to longer term. Naturally, these skills are better rewarded as well.
As a CFO, therefore, you ought to spend a reasonable chunk of time on the strategic side of your business. It not only adds value to your business, but also to yourself.
However, how things play out in real life is often very different. A regular day in the life of many CFOs is often filled with tactical actions and housekeeping tasks like cash management, accounting and reconciliation, compliance and regulatory reporting and financial close. Especially in smaller firms that don’t have the luxury of hiring in an army of people, these tasks demand much more of the CFO’s time. With tactical priorities taking over each day, there is not much time left to sit back and strategize. And before you know it, another year has rolled by.
How to Transform from a Tactical CFO to Strategic Leader
The question is what you can do about this from a practical perspective right now (other than just being resigned to your situation). Whether there are ways to tilt the equation to free up more time for strategic planning, without waiting to hire in resources. What others in similar situations are doing to help themselves and their firms.
The answer lies in the use of technology. Many of us fail to realize that the world has changed significantly from the technology perspective. And there are today a plethora of software products and solutions to choose from and leverage to make things easier, more accurate and less time consuming especially around some aspects of your job like compliance.
Many nimble-footed firms are now offering their products through the SaaS model (software as a service), making it possible to use their software with zero upfront investment. So you pay for the software only when you use it and to the extent you use it, like a service. And if it doesn’t work for you, you can walk away from it easily.
Adoption of some of these technologies can free up slices of time before you know it. You could start in any small area, adopt and leverage technology to help you get things done much easier and quicker. You’d be surprised how soon you start seeing more time available on your calendar.
You can then focus your time to do what you had always wanted to around the strategic side of your business. And that shift in focus is tremendously rewarding, both professionally and personally.
Deepta Rangarajan is a co-founder of IRIS, which runs a cloud based disclosure management solution that helps SEC filers in their end-to-end compliance reporting. Built with deep XBRL and iXBRL experience of over 7 years with the US SEC and over 12 years globally, IRIS CARBON™ simplifies your reporting while ensuring high quality filing, increased productivity and efficient collaboration across your organization.