Fully Utilize Your CFO – March 2014

This topic of interest concerns strategy and how financial professionals can help contribute to this marketing driven function.

Any successful  CEO will tell you that one of the most important elements of a firm’s strategic thrust is the ability to innovate – consistently generate valuable products that separate top performers from the rest of the pack.   Traditionally, this has been viewed as a marketing function resulting in the exclusion of the finance professional’s input and even labeling them as inhibitors.

While marketing will always drive this element of the firm’s strategic plan, finance professionals can play a key role in fostering a company’s innovation effort and directly contribute to the development of value-added new products.  Many finance professionals already possess delivery skills – those skills which enable a firm to bring profitable new products to market in a cost effective manner.  Such delivery skills can be characterized as: analysis, planning, detail-driven implementation, and execution of the plan.

The area where finance people have the potential to contribute more , albeit in a secondary role to marketers, is in the discovery process.  Skills necessary to add value to this process include, asking questions, observation, experimentation, networking, and associating.  This will better equip finance professionals to recognize the importance of innovation in company growth and develop metrics that enable decisions to drive this growth.

The five discovery skills from which innovative solutions can emerge are:

  • Asking Questions.  Pose provocative questions that challenge the status quo.
  • Observation.  Be aware of internal and external product and market developments to help detect new ways to approach a challenge.
  • Experimentation.  Test new ideas and experiences and continuously learn from the results.
  • Networking.  Develop contacts and relationships with people in all walks of life and with various viewpoints.  This will provide one with the ability attain different perspectives on a given situation.
  • Associating.  Combine the above attributes to link divergent inputs and questions to drive a solution.

As finance professionals work to improve these skills, they can become more productive and important to their organization and its long term success.

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