CFO Study: Strategic Intelligence

By IBM Institute for Business Value

Executive Summary

The expectation to be both the guardian of stability and agent of transformation has elevated the stakes and the opportunity for the CFO and the finance function. To tackle this paradox of responsibilities and drive value through the organization, CFOs need to optimize their own potential and that of their teams. To excel will require new approaches, new tools, new perspective, new organizational constructs, and skills—especially related to data—as well as discipline in using them.

This study examines five CFO success factors and provides an action guide:

  • Strategic focus
  • Organizational agility
  • Data-centricity
  • Redefined talent
  • Intelligent workflows


When change is at its most intense, people long for certainty. For enterprises, this traditionally has meant turning to an officer charged with maintaining stability, fiscal soundness, and  adherence to standards: the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). In this role, the CFO brings calm, perspective, and a comprehensive understanding of the big picture by being grounded in specific  details and tangible realities. CFOs are equipped with a toolbox of levers that they can use to deliver outcomes. And reliable outcomes are exactly what executives want in a time of change.

In the modern tech-fueled economy, a premium has been placed on organizational agility and transformation. Both these capabilities took on heightened importance as the pandemic swept the  globe and disrupted systems—not just for weeks and months, but for the foreseeable future. CFOs have again been thrust into the spotlight to help here, turned to by Chief Executive Officers  (CEOs), boards, and investors more than any other C-suite role for guidance, insight, and action. According to our most recent CEO Study, CEOs view the CFO as playing the most crucial role in  their organizations over the next 2 to 3 years.

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Link to full article: Strategic Intelligence: CFOs as architects of action and champions of change