Championing digitization. Building resilience. Shifting the focus from crunching numbers and balancing the books to driving strategic business decision-making.
As a CFO, you may have noticed the changing demands your business is placing on you. You may have also realized that your finance department's structure is misaligned with these goals.
Figuring out how to structure your finance department in the face of such changes can seem intimidating. However, by understanding critical trends and using technology, you can transform your finance department into a business driver.
Let's dive into how CFOs can structure their finance department optimally.
Key trends affecting finance department structure
The trick to future-proofing finance is understanding trends affecting this space and organizing your department to leverage them.
Here are the six most important trends affecting finance.
1. Finance is going selectively lean
Writing in Deloitte's Finance 2025 report, they say, "Some find it interesting to speculate about finance disappearing under the crush of digital disruption, but we don’t see that happening. Yes, finance will likely be leaner, but that will mostly be a function of headcount in operational finance (order-to-cash, procure-to-pay, transactional accounting, etc.)."
Bottom line: CFOs must understand that while automation is reducing the number of human employees firms need, it is replacing repetitive manual functions, not all of finance.
2. Finance must add business value
Technology will reduce the number of human employees in operational finance but will force CFOs to rethink how they organize business finance.
In Deloitte's report, Hogan and Sher write, "Whether finance continues to direct the resources currently under its control will be dependent on its ability to add value. That will require quality insights and exceptional customer service."
"(As a result..)Expectations for support from business finance (business partnering, reporting, planning, budgeting, forecasting, etc.) and specialized finance (tax, treasury, IR, etc.) will continue to grow."
Bottom line: CFOs must deliver business insights, not just reports, to their organizations.
3. Real-time forecasting will increase
Most financial processes, like monthly closes, look backward. Deloitte predicts that as technology improves, demands for real-time forecasting will increase.
"Finance organizations will still need to meet external demands for cyclical information, but outside investors may also want more frequent performance information," Hogan and Sher opine. "There is no close. You’re not forecasting once a month or quarterly. It’s all happening in real-time."
Bottom line: CFOs must invest in ad-hoc, real-time tracking tools that give them accurate insights into their business.
4. Automation will replace outsourcing
Hogan and Sher believe CFOs must fully embrace automation. "Automation provides a new lever for managing costs," they say, "one that gives finance organizations the opportunity to reevaluate how they’re organized, where work gets done, and what kinds of processes no longer require human intervention.
Bottom line: CFOs must rethink outsourcing arrangements, exploring technology's ability to reduce costs and deliver work faster.
5. Finance skills are changing
Collaboration, storytelling ability, and customer orientation are just as important as analytical skills. Hogan and Sher advise, "All of your people should be able to contribute to elevating the value of finance in terms of communication, impact, and influence."
"Your finance organization should be looking at every new hire through the 2025 lens."
Bottom line: CFOs must make every new hire count, aiming to future-proof finance as much as possible.
Key functions in the finance department
Now that you grasp the pivotal trends influencing the organization of financial departments, here are the common functions found in most finance teams. Keep in mind that your company’s size and industry will affect the importance and relevance of the functions below.
- Procure-to-pay: This function handles supplier relationships, from purchase orders to accounts payable.
- Order-to-cash: Also called O2C, this function handles customer relationships—from invoicing and accounts receivable, to dispute handling and collections.
- Treasury: This function manages working capital and cash flow. It handles bank relationships and company credit statuses.
- Financial planning and analysis (FP&A): A relatively new finance function, FP&A, handles forecasting, budget projections, and efficiency tracking.
- Tax: This ensures your company complies with government norms and defines internal reporting standards.
- Accounting: This function prepares accounting statement reports and manages expenses.
4 finance department organizational charts
Now that we've outlined the essential functions in a finance department, the lingering question is: how do you go about structuring them within your company?
Here are four finance department structures based on company size and business presence.
Finance department structure for a fast-growing startup
Finance department structure of a fast-growing startup
Fast-growing startups need agility. To this end, Controllers supervise all payments and accounting. Startups can outsource or automate accounting to reduce manual burden.
To ensure growth, startups must include a strategic finance function that reviews cash burn efficiency and models growth paths. A strategic finance tool must assist this role.
These companies are better off outsourcing payroll or using an automated human resources platform.
Finance department structure for an established small business
Finance department structure of a small business
A small business must be cost-conscious. This structure helps small businesses function with a lean team, handling payments in-house to ensure they maintain business relationships.
Small businesses can also use automated tools to simplify many of these processes. Automating payroll, tax compliance, and accounting (or outsourcing them) will reduce the burden on the company's CFO.
Finance department structure for a mid-sized business
Finance department structure of a mid-sized company
Mid-sized businesses are complex and need distinct treasury and controller-led departments. Controllers supervise payments and compliance with the help of sub-departments and tools. Treasurers supervise strategic planning, internal audit controls, and accounting workflows.
Every mid-sized business is different, so tailor this structure to suit your needs. For instance, you might automate or outsource accounting. Or you might fold payroll under your Controller's purview instead of organizing it under HR.
Finance department structure for an international mid-sized business
Finance department structure of an international mid-sized company
Mid-sized businesses operating overseas can use the department structure we highlighted above.
As illustrated, they need to incorporate a currency risk management function responsible for minimizing the exchange rate risks associated with operating in multiple currencies.
While larger businesses could opt for in-house traders, small and medium-sized businesses are better off outsourcing their needs to a specialist, that can help them accurately gauge their fx risk exposure and define an effective currency risk management strategy for their business.
5 best practices for structuring your finance department
Here are five great ways to ensure you squeeze the most out of the organizational structures we've highlighted.
1. Get the basics right
When you're figuring out how to set up your finance team, it might be tempting to tackle everything all at once. But, hold on a sec! It's better to start with the basics first.
That means inspecting your data sources for integrity, installing sound accounting principles, and taking a good look at where your team might be struggling.
Growing can make existing problems even trickier. So, the key is to focus on getting the basics right from the get-go.
2. Prioritize tools as much as people
Technology can free finance teams from repetitive, highly structured tasks. Prioritize automation and tool usage as much as your headcount.
For instance, evaluate tools that automate cash application and journal entries. Automating these tasks is especially relevant for businesses operating across borders since it saves time translating currencies and preparing your books.
Christian Martinez, Finance Analytics Manager at the Kraft Heinz Company, outlines a method for CFOs to organize department activities and strike a balance between automation and human input in the process.
“Start by creating a comprehensive list of all the tasks and responsibilities that fall under the purview of the finance department: budgeting, financial reporting, compliance, risk management, and others.” he says.
“Add a column next to each task to evaluate its value or impact,” he continues. “For instance, tasks like financial reporting might have a high value due to their legal and strategic importance. The next column should be dedicated to assessing the complexity of each task.”
“Some tasks might be straightforward, requiring minimal specialized knowledge, while others, like tax planning, could be highly complex. After evaluating the value and complexity, the next step is to analyze which tasks can be automated.”
He notes that while automation is great for “routine, time-consuming tasks, it's crucial to ensure that automation doesn't compromise the quality or integrity of the work.”
3. Screen for the right skills
Finance must function as business storytellers more than ever. Future-proof your team by screening for data analysis and interpretation skills as much as technical ones. Hire people who are willing to collaborate with different departments to unearth new areas of growth.
“It's essential to have team members who are knowledgeable about automated processes,” Martinez adds. “This ensures there's someone who can troubleshoot and resolve issues if the automated systems encounter problems.”
“It also ensures continuity and understanding of the processes within the team, which is critical for maintaining control and oversight of the department's functions.”
4. Promote finance as a key CX driver
Finance is a critical difference-maker in establishing customer relationships. Functions like accounts receivable (AR) can help you deliver memorable CX. For instance, AR teams can use automation to avoid invoice errors, giving them more time to solve complex customer issues.
Thanks to this additional time, AR can orient itself around customer needs and strengthen customer relationships.
“CFOs need to foster a culture within the finance department—and the organization at large—that prioritizes the customer in every decision,” Martinez says.
“This might include training finance staff to think from a customer-centric perspective or integrating customer satisfaction metrics into financial performance indicators.”
He says CFOs must collaborate with departments like marketing and sales to understand customer journeys, and rely on technology to orient their departments around customer needs.
“CFOs should also advocate for investments in technologies and systems such as CRM software or data analytics tools,” he says, “that provide valuable insights into customer preferences and behaviors.”
5. Review and scale
Review your finance team's structure as your company grows. For instance, if your company expands internationally, you must review and analyze operations at each new location and region.
“ CFOs should create a department that can adapt to increasing complexities and demands while maintaining financial integrity and supporting overall business objectives,” Martinez explains.
“They must assess and possibly redesign the structure of their finance team,” he continues. “This might involve creating specialized roles or divisions (like treasury, tax, financial planning and analysis, etc.) to handle the increased workload and complexity.”
Reviewing processes for efficiency is also a critical task. “As the business grows,” Martinez says, “CFOs should ensure that their financial systems are scalable and can integrate seamlessly with other business systems (like CRM, ERP, etc.). Upgrading to more robust financial management software might be necessary to handle increased transaction volumes and complex financial reporting requirements.”
Curious about which tools can help you build a lean finance team? Check out our list of the best fintech tech stack for CFOs.