CFOs are taking on more and more responsibility at their organizations, with many stepping outside of traditional finance. Honing one’s operational skills can help finance chiefs to make better decisions and to eventually take on broader roles, said Narayan Menon, newly appointed CFO and chief operating officer for data productivity company Matillion.
A veteran executive with over 25 years experience in both finance and operations, Menon joined Matillion as its CFO and COO at the end of March, the company announced in a press release.
Before joining the Denver, Colo.-based data productivity company, Menon served as CFO for video platform Vimeo, where he led their finance and accounting and investor relations teams among others, according to his LinkedIn profile. He has also held key finance and operational roles for large-scale technology companies Intuit, Skype, Microsoft and Cisco, serving as corporate VP, finance for Inuit and as a senior director for both Microsoft and Skype.
Melding operational and finance skills
As the CFO role morphs outside of the pure finance function, skills and expertise in other key areas — such as digital skills — are becoming more and more of a value add for both current and future financial leaders. Tech-savvy leadership can be a draw for skilled talent, for example, a recent report by Gartner found, noting a lack of digital skills in senior management could drive significant unwanted turnover.
Honing their data and analytic skills can therefore be hugely beneficial for CFOs and those looking to take such positions as the role changes, with Menon also suggesting such individuals “start thinking about more operational responsibilities earlier in their career,” he said in an interview.
“When I was at Cisco and Intuit, I took on a lot of operational responsibilities in addition to classic finance jobs and I think that really prepared me for this role,” he said. “So taking on broader roles, taking on operational responsibilities earlier in (your) career really positions you well for one, to be a better CFO in the first place and two, to take on a broader role like the CFO, COO (role) I have right now.”
In some ways, taking on operational responsibilities is a “natural extension” for a CFO, Menon said, who — an engineer by training — has always considered himself more of an operational CFO. Having that background can help finance chiefs make better decisions in areas such as capital allocation, for example.
“One of the key things in my view for any CFO when making capital allocation decisions is to fully understand the business, [and its] operations — otherwise your decisions are not going to be well-thought out,” he said.
As well as financial responsibilities at Matillion, Menon manages data and insights, IT security and other operational functions, working closely with executives such as the head of sales and of marketing.
“It is a much broader role, but it really helps having that data and analytics background” when it comes to making decisions like how to increase the number of sales leads, track growth and make processes more efficient, Menon said.
Making data top of mind
Matillion, a data productivity company, provides data integration and transformation solutions which pair with the cloud, enabling greater, faster access and helping to coordinate insights for their customers — a necessity in a world where now “even the smallest of small companies use data to make decisions,” Menon said.
While financial leaders often cite data analytics and intelligence as a top priority, it often gets outshone by other key priorities such as cost management, growth and talent, according to a recent report by Deloitte.
Brushing up on data and analytical skills as a finance leader can help CFOs drive forward future projects — especially as it is becoming steadily more difficult to achieve other strategic goals without a solid handle on one’s data, the Deloitte report stressed.
The growing necessity of data productivity — which Menon defined as the ability to both consolidate data into one place as well as draw insights from it — for companies, therefore, presents businesses like Matillion with expanding opportunities even in a lukewarm economic environment.
Macroeconomic pressures have “definitely factored into the conversation” when it comes to how the company is approaching growth, Menon said, but “at the same time, we don't want to be hunkered down when the market opportunity is large. I think we have to balance that out,” he said.