Jack McCullough is the chair of the MIT Sloan CFO Summit — held this year on November 15 in Boston — one of the most influential conferences for chief financial officers in the world. He is also the founder of the CFO Leadership Council, a group that provides professional development and peer-to-peer networking for chief financial officers in 23 chapters across the country.
How do you define ‘digital strategy’, from a CFO’s perspective?
I am not sure that the CFO’s perspective on digital strategy would be terribly different than from other executives. The ultimate goal of a digital strategy is to make the organization more efficient and more competitive in the market place. CFOs are on the front lines of this revolution. The obvious way is by reducing costs and simplifying certain processes. Beyond that, a digital strategy should empower employees by creating insight that will enhance decision-making in the short and long run, creating sustainable long-term value.
What kind of mobile device(s) do you have, and what are your three favorite apps?
I have an iPhone and iPad. My favorite app, by far, is LinkedIn. I’m not sure I could live without it at this point. I use Expedia quite a bit. I use Wunderlist every day. Also, I recently discovered SmartUp. I know we just met, but it feels like love.
What do you think of the emergence of the ‘digital CFO’ discussion?
One of our panels is called “Digital Finance, Digital World.” It is one of the two or three topics most on the mind of CFOs and their teams, yet we don’t fully know its implications. It is inspiring and scary at the same time. I often hear that it has never been harder to be a CFO. I don’t agree with this – surely it was more challenging during the Great Depression, even if the title did not exist back then. But, there has never been a more exciting time to be a CFO. At the same time, things are changing at a rapid pace and it is difficult to make forecasts even two years out.
What advice do you have for aspiring finance professionals, in terms of how they think about digital trends?
Live on the cutting edge and make sure your universe is aware of it. It is easy to be a dinosaur if you are not on the cutting edge of technological changes. The digital revolution is a true game-changer and you don’t want to be left behind. But, at the same time, don’t throw caution to the wind, and be willing to learn from other people’s mistakes. For, they will be plentiful.
What three publications – in any format – do you read regularly?
CFO Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and ESPN The Magazine.