Microsoft and Harvard Business Review Detail the Changing Roles of CFOs and COOs in the Digital Era

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Delegates at the CFO roundtable follow proceedings
Delegates at the CFO roundtable follow proceedings
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New digital technologies such as the use of social media platforms, smartphones and corporate tools such as big data and AI are advancing at an unprecedented rate in virtually all forms of business. These innovations are used by ordinary people and business people alike. Products from Microsoft (Office, Windows, Azure, to mention a few) are used by billions of people across the globe. These developments have since invoked serious questions such as what happens when traditional businesses have inferior business tools compared to what their employees have at their homes? – and customers are more technologically informed than the people trying to sell them?

Key executives in every industry – from media to those that sell a series of digital products and services continue to face a range of digital opportunities and challenges in equal measure. These executives are mostly aware of these concerns, but some of them do not have a framework to guide them. In fact, you may have noticed that the lion’s share of stories in the digital space tend to focus on wealthy or well-funded organization, or cover global giants such as the likes of Microsoft and Facebook.

Some of these issues are among the details that were discussed by Microsoft during a roundtable that was hosted with the corporation in partnership with Harvard Business Review. The meet was addressing the roles of CFOs and COOs that work within various organizations and aimed to educate and highlight how advanced technologies have presented unprecedented changes.



The event was one of several other similar roundtables that have been held by Harvard Business Review in Kenya, and sought to offer insights into how the role of the two functions continue to evolve, and how they are expected to push corporate performance through the use of modern technological tools and setting up their organizations’ technology roadmaps powered by data.

The role of today’s CFOs and finance executives must take into consideration a broader scope – requiring a heightened technological sophistication. The emergence of the digital age is fundamentally changing the priorities and roles of today’s finance executives, and security forms an integral part of this,” noted Geoffrey Mathare, Finance Lead for Enterprise Business for Microsoft North, West, East & Southern Africa, Levant & Pakistan.

Although traditional roles of CFOs and COOs, such as cost cuts and exploration of new revenue streams are still relevant, looking for new opportunities for growth has emerged. The disruption has seen the application of advanced technologies such as the cloud and AI, among other tools.


“However, like with all industries that exist today, challenges are inevitable and constantly present ‘bottlenecks’ for full potential output. The same can be said for the financial sector, where there are inadequate tools for anticipating expanding business complexities, processes are prone to error, threats, risks, and ever-increasing regulation. All of these are major causes for concern,” added Mathare.

A statement from Safaricom adds that to remain competitive and foster an environment that is flexible to change brought by digital transformation, ‘finance executives must lead their companies to reach goals concerning growth, profitability, and productivity. This is important as they implement advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud.’

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