The CFO Agenda

By Nilly Essaides and Bryan Hall
December 28, 2020
Season 1, Episode 4

Host Nilly Essaides talks with Bryan Hall, The Hackett Group’s principal and finance transformation leader, about how the pandemic has changed the chief financial officer (CFO) agenda for 2020, and the emerging priorities for 2021, including dealing with ongoing uncertainty, continuing digital transformation, improving analytics capabilities, tightening cash flow management, and enhancing the ability of finance to serve as a strategic advisor to the business.

Show Notes

Today’s episode of the “Business Excelleration Podcast” is hosted by Nilly Essaides, senior research director and global practice leader at The Hackett Group. Nilly welcomes today’s guest, Bryan Hall, principal and leader of finance transformation at The Hackett Group.

The episode begins with Nilly asking Bryan how he sees the pandemic affecting CFO priorities in 2021. At the beginning of the crisis, one of the first things CFOs got their arms around was cash flow management and liquidity preservation. Bryan explains that now one of the pressures put on finance organizations is determining their new normal. He explains that CFOs should be focused on digital strategies for 2021, because those who had already begun working on their digital infrastructure prior to the pandemic have fared better than organizations that were not as technologically savvy. The CFO is critical to an organization – not just to finance, but also as an important business advisor to the organization. Finance organizations were forced this year to accelerate their finance transformation toward a digital model. Since there were so many unknowns at the height of the pandemic, all the questions on how to handle this crisis and what to do next passed through the CFO. Bryan explains that a digital mindset is key in making these decisions because business is continuing under extraordinary circumstances.

The work of CFOs is often project-oriented. Projects related to digital transformation – like machine learning, moving to the cloud, etc. – are things companies continued throughout the pandemic, while other projects were put on hold. This was the case across many industries. Overall, Bryan explains, companies that remain deeply engaged in this digital transformation are doing better with talent acquisition, efficiency and employee retention. Organizations have been forced into a virtual delivery model. Leaders must facilitate conversations, organize data and learning, and recognize there is an opportunity in digital to involve more employees and engage them across projects and teams. One of the fundamental things finance is charged with is being a strong partner and advisor, and getting that advice right has never been more critical.

Many finance organizations, Bryan says, report what has happened rather than providing insight into what is likely to happen. This is because their time is consumed with producing reports manually. There can also be fragmentation in how things look and the approaches managers would like to take.


:59 – Nilly introduces herself and guest Bryan Hall.

1:37 – Nilly asks Bryan how he sees the pandemic changing CFO priorities in 2021.

4:09 – Bryan explains the importance of CFOs in a crisis.

7:22 – Nilly asks what kinds of projects Bryan is fast-tracking.

9:37 – Bryan talks about the future of work in the finance industry.

14:58 – Nilly asks for Bryan to share advice on how finance teams can evolve or flex their analytics capabilities.