Over the past few years, the roles of the CFO and finance team have fundamentally changed. With the availability of advanced digital tools, we’ve moved from the back office to front of house, and finance teams are now partnering with diverse groups across organizations to increase revenue generation, decrease costs, and improve growth margins. However, while many finance departments including Microsoft’s have transformed into more of a revenue-growth focused business partner, we still maintain the same anchoring principles you come to expect from any finance group. We still strive to create clarity, generate energy, and deliver financial success.
The anchoring principles of successful financial leadership
Creating clarity across teams and departments is critical to any endeavor. Many teams are dealing with a huge flow of data including financial, operational, and economic information. We’re also learning the most efficient ways to interpret said data through all the new technological tools we’re utilizing. We must constantly ask ourselves, “What is the big picture?” in order to figure out the best course of action. Using digital analytical tools helps us to lay out that larger forward-thinking plan with clear accountabilities for each person to drive results.
The second and arguably the most important anchoring principle is generating energy. Even with external advances in technology, positive energy and excitement for projects still have a massive impact on improving the entire business. In finance, a growth mindset needs to be boundaryless to leverage internal and external networks to connect and solve problems. Because of the innovative nature of our business at Microsoft, generating energy and excitement might appear to come easily, and to some extent it does. However, having a proactive mentality, taking on challenges with vigor, and seeking out new customers and partners are things we still work on every day.
How to define success in financial management
There are lots of ways to think about delivering success. I tend to think that there is one key quality in a financial department employee that will determine if they’re capable of delivering great outcomes— curiosity. We all have to have a learner mindset or we’re not going to be effective. We also all have to grow business actively by utilizing new tools and relationships and approaching challenging projects and problems with positivity. When you combine curious people with increasingly supportive tools, you’re guaranteed to see outstanding results.
In the future, I anticipate more changes to the role of financial management that are fueled by digital transformation. It’s inevitable that technology will continue to advance, creating new opportunities for the finance department to grow and change. The workflow of companies like Microsoft will always evolve but I’m confident that the fundamental principles underlying our work will be maintained. We will always aim to promote clarity, have the best folks on our teams, and keep our curiosity alive to deliver success.