The 2021 CFO Agenda

By Nilly Essaides and Tom Willman
February 15, 2021
Season 1, Episode 11

Nilly Essaides, Senior Director of Research at The Hackett Group’s Finance Advisory Program talks with Tom Willman, Principal and Lead for Finance Advisory about how the pandemic has changed finance priorities for 2021. The pandemic has made it critical for finance to improve its ability to act as a strategic business advisor, cut costs and enhance efficiency, and accelerate digital transformation.

Show Notes

Tune in to this episode of the Business Excelleration Podcast—hosted by The Hackett Group, a global leader in defining and enabling world-class performance. Hearing from the top experts on how to avoid obstacles, manage detours, and celebrate milestones, this episode focuses in on finance strategy and the CFO Agenda for 2021. How can finance work to improve the strategic business advisory role and analytic modeling capabilities? Learn the importance of understanding how to align finance strategy with the overall business strategy and establishing what a business needs from finance, and then develop processes around these requirements.

Nilly Essaides, senior director of research at the Hackett’s financial program, hosts this episode and guides the conversation with guest Tom Willman. Tom is the principal and lead for the finance advisory at the Hackett Group. Nilly jumps right into addressing the priorities for this coming year as the effects of 2020 are heavily felt. With the extremely destructive and uncertain terrain that 2020 brought forth, how are the finances for 2021 being affected?

Listen in as Tom discusses the survey for key issues that has revealed how the pandemic is still fundamentally serving to shape organizations’ decisions for 2021. With many leaders believing stabilization will not occur until at least the second part of 2021, or 2022 and beyond, Tom says that finance has learned a lot on how to better navigate this current environment.

Taking a look at the top 3 objectives from the key issues study, we can see the levels of expected uncertainty companies are facing. First, Tom looks at the issue of growing into a more effective strategic advisory. This growth will provide the crucial insight for organizations to make better decisions about resource allocation and initiative selection. Second, the continued focus on cost efficiency must be made sustainable and scalable to carry on the momentum companies are gaining. Finally, listen to the growing importance of improving both modeling and analytics capabilities, to better serve the future generations.

Nilly asks, what specific steps do finance organizations plan to take to achieve these goals? Tom is quick to recognize that finance initiatives must align with the objectives previously discussed. At the top of the list is finance digital transformation and/or the expansion of finance digital capabilities. Tom shares about the initiative for process automation to extract manual activities and increase companies’ capacity for more ‘valued’ actives. In addition, insight generation and predictive monitoring serve to expand these digital capabilities into realms not previously explored. Tom also addresses both the initiative to optimize and integrate the planning process, and the data governments needed to sustain growth forward. While many people might be looking back, Tom is pressing his listeners to be looking forward!

The conversation shifts as Nilly brings up the issue that finance organizations are experiencing in failing to meet the biggest business needs. How can we fill in these gaps? Join us in taking a look at cost reduction, sustainability, scalability, and the role of technology. Where is the biggest impact with both research and client interactions? With the most acceleration happening in process automation technologies and data insight technologies (visualization and predictive analytics), it is most important for organizations to have a framework and value-based selection in place to allocate their resources appropriately as they work to absorb change. The importance of skill-sets and talent is being recognized for the success of this transformation program to occur. If finance is going to be effective, the staff has to be able to communicate exceptionally!

Tom closes this episode with an encouraging re-cap! While 2020 was a challenging year, it serves as the beacon of a learning opportunity. The pandemic has served to help to make changes that are both sustainable and advanced, in order to bring greater value and insight into business as a whole.

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1:25 – Nilly welcomes Tom to the show

2:33 – Top 3 objectives from the key issues study

3:45 – Initiatives that align with objectives

6:14 – The concerning challenges, or failures, of finance teams

8:23 – Role of technology in moving finance forward

11:20 – The importance of skill-set and talent

14:01 – An encouraging re-cap from 2020