OREANDA-NEWS. November 09, 2015. The rise of digital technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and cloud is creating new and valuable sources of business information, ways to interpret data, and the means to do so cost-effectively, writes Scott Mall. Simultaneously, the role of CFOs is evolving as these factors impact the budget and the traditional outlook on research and development and innovation. Excerpts:

In todays data-rich and fast-changing environment, every action in the digital worldevery click, swipe, like, buy, and postleaves a digital footprint and produces a unique virtual identity we in Cognizant call a Code Halo.

The insights into the behavior of people, processes and objects provided by Code Halo inform new business models by anticipating customer wants and needs before they are even articulated. The CFO needs to take all this into account as part of finances new role that is centered on strategic business partnership, organizational efficiency, business agility and insight.

The core functions must first run smoothly before CFOs can take on these more strategic responsibilities. But once that is done, CFOs can start harnessing the explosion in the volume and variety of data sources and the power of analytic engines. In so doing, they can turn raw operational data into actionable intelligence and thus drive key knowledge-based initiatives.

Given the strains of the dual mandateto simultaneously drive efficiencies and innovationthe ramifications for the finance function are profound. The CFO and finance team must help do more with less, cut costs, generate growth, optimize operations within budget, and partner with the entire business. Therefore, CFOs need a new operating model to change the way finance sources capabilities, partners with providers and delivers technology to its teams.

In the past, CFOs key objective was concentrated on cost reduction. Today, CFOs need to instead focus on delivering simplicity and agility. Rather than just seek access to talent, CFOs should demand access to innovation.

All in all, the finance function will no longer be defined by costs. Rather it will be defined by the value it delivers. This large-scale and complex transformation requires four major shifts: Intelligent sourcing, agile processes, smarter strategies, and empowering technology. 

CFOs are uniquely positioned to strengthen the business foundation and drive growth by investing in new markets and products, as are corporate treasurers. They can manage risks, reduce costs and waste in the system, streamline cash flows and help the business emerge ready for Code Halo transformations and champion of organization-wide business change.

Here are some Monday morning priorities for the CFOs to start off with.

- Audit the data you collect. 

- Benchmark your business partnership maturity. 

- Identify where change is needed. 

New technologies and business models hold an immediate opportunity for CFOs to increase their influence and enhance business outcomes. It is imperative that their role evolves beyond traditional financial reporting, compliance and capital management to propel change, performance improvements and better business partnership that supports innovation and creates organizational value. It is time the finance function became a critical change agent across organizations.