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CFOs Taking Charge in the Brave New World of Advanced Analytics

“When Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer stepped down this year as finance chief and Luca Maeistri took the reins, ample attention was given to the new report to CEO Tim Cook. Another recent high-profile CFO appointment includes Twitter naming Anthony Noto to the position in July. The mounting pressure for more products and global expansion, along with increased investor interest are but a few examples of why organizations need CFOs to play larger, more strategic roles in a company’s planning and decision-making,” says Christian Gheorghe, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Tidemark.

We caught up with Gheorghe to discuss the evolving role of the CFO and how finance leaders from leading brands are making their mark in this new era of advanced data and digital transformation.

What are CFOs challenged with today versus 15 years ago?

Being a CFO today is a much different job than it was 15 years ago, even five years ago. There are many reasons why this is true. First, CFOs are swimming in various forms of data. Not only is data coming from every department and function within companies - from sensor data on the manufacturing floor to sales and marketing data stored in CRM and marketing automation software - but from outside the firewall too. It is hard for any one person to manage all of the desperate sources, let alone make sense of it all. This is particularly true because CFOs are still managing their businesses based on legacy systems, leading to inefficient processes, forced management of massive amounts of cells through Excel spreadsheets and, frankly, more manual time than a company should be allocating. However, with the advancement of today’s analytic tools CFOs have the opportunity to lead transformation within an organization. Whether they are working at a Fortune 500 company or a small business, the various business units rely on the CFO to asses risk, forecasting revenue, make adjustments and “what if scenarios” and, ultimately, make more strategic and impactful decisions.

How has the role of CFOs changed over that time?

The idea of CFOs only focusing on bookkeeping is over. Today they are asked to play a much more involved role - among them to provide more visibility into new sources of revenue growth and identify new areas or regions of investment. To do this, they need to be more collaborative than ever before. As real-time data is streaming in from all directions, today’s CFO needs to engage operations, sales, marketing and other lines of business to analyze and jointly develop action-oriented scenarios that should lead to more confident decision-making and better business outcomes. To do this, it is imperative that CFOs abandon outdated systems that force inefficient processes, and start harnessing the power of advanced analytics to get that shared, real-time window into the business.

How can advanced analytics and cloud technologies help CFOs do their jobs more effectively?

When selected, advanced financial planning and analytics solutions like Tidemark can help CFOs get their arms around data to quickly and easily identify business drivers and risks, run different scenarios and use unprecedented “what-if modeling” derived from both internal and external data to assist in their decision-making process.

By running in the cloud, that data is always available to users across the entire organization and they can literally work from the same page (and set of numbers), regardless of where they are located or the device they want to use. This makes collaboration and ideation a much easier process. For example, a CFO can work directly with other members of the executive team as well as HR to reduce employee turnover by exploring various hiring options, parameters, geographies, training and education programs.

By connecting the various data sources and departments like never before, they can now uncover correlations between local job creation and employee churn-rate, as well as explore different scenarios that will help the collective team decide where and how to invest in talent to increase retention rates. Spreadsheets with cumbersome processes just cannot do that.

Interview by Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans