When Elon Musk announced Tesla had added Bitcoin to its treasury, and then that it had sold a good portion at a healthy gain, only to later state misgivings because of the digital currency's energy use, the world gained an insight into the dizzying dynamic of modern corporate finances.

To succeed and thrive, businesses nowadays need to be able to make decisions faster and evolve faster. If they can't, the risks are greater and the penalties starker. That means top leadership needs to be able to predict the future with greater accuracy and agility than in the past. In turn, that means today's CEO is looking to the CFO to tell them what is coming around the corner and invest their capital well for long-term success.

For that reason, the role of CFO is becoming more important and strategic. These days, a CFO's responsibility is less about counting beans and more about seeing the big picture and how finance can help a company grow and thrive. It is no surprise that CFOs now increasingly come from the likes of McKinsey and less so from the E&Ys and KPMGs of the world.

Faster pace and greater rate of change demand increased financial agility and better ability to understand and quickly adjust strategies to adapt to the environment. Yet most CFOs are stuck with dated information pulled from various siloes. Even companies using the latest financial technology struggle to create a unified picture of all the information they need.

This makes seeing around corners challenging. If your data is already three months old then your decisions will be that much less prescient. Smart CFOs recognized this. They look around and see all other business units are moving not only toward transformation but more real-time data and unified data systems that foster collaboration and paint the "Big Picture" rather than just one tiny piece of the picture.

These smart CFOs are looking toward connected systems. They know they will gain a competitive advantage in a marketplace that increasingly requires adaptability and quickness. They also know that the current infrastructure for financial analysis cannot keep up with the extraordinary pace of today's business – and the consequences can be severe.

Our current tools for financial analysis leave much to be desired. The problem is, while technological developments have created many financial tools, they are not connected. What we have is a financial Tower of Babel – discrete entities jammed together whose collective potential is stifled by an inability to communicate.

Nowadays, as most companies move their data to the cloud, financial analysis needs to be integrated, unified and operating in real time. However, finance in today's cloud is still disjointed. Information must be exported into spreadsheets for just a glimpse into the big picture. This is hardly an example of unified data, nor is it an example of real-time analysis. Exporting and reimporting information takes valuable time – and time is money.

Cloud computing allows firms to cut costs and hassle by having outside firms host their data and provide processing power for certain applications
Cloud computing allows firms to cut costs and hassle by having outside firms host their data and provide processing power for certain applications AFP / Odd ANDERSEN

Some smarter companies have sought integrated data solutions (like Tableau) that can analyze data from many systems, but they have their own problems. These systems are not systems of record. They can display data from many sources, but they cannot add data that immediately impacts the analysis.

Modern CFOs with their finger on the technological pulse have noticed this problem. They have started asking, why do we need data exported from a cloud to a spreadsheet to analyze it? Why can't we be plugged into the original flow? Why are we disconnected both from our systems and reality?

These CFOs know that connected finance is the key to becoming more efficient and effective. Not only does real-time analysis allow for agile decision-making, but the quality of connected data is far superior to the alternative. Newer data from a wider variety of systems paints a more complete picture of a company's financial position. With this information, the connected CFO is better equipped to understand the present, predict the future, and implement substantive, money-generating practices within an organization.

With unified, real-time financial data, the connected CFO can revolutionize how different departments interact. By pushing financial data into their systems, this CFO can help individual departments see the impact of their decisions on the company's cash. Imagine the changes to marketing, sales, or HR if we were able to connect the dots on how their activities impact cash flow. Connected CFOs stand to streamline their businesses by viewing how each component affects the whole, and vice versa.

Ultimately, the connected CFO will improve collaboration within an organization as well as with its partners and vendors. Real-time, unified financial data allows everyone to be on the same page. It facilitates cooperation with the multiple stakeholders involved in achieving important goals. Most significantly, however, connected finance will mean that the CFO no longer operates on an island. Instead of secluding themselves just to the numbers, CFOs will have the tools to harness true teamwork – true connectivity.

Smart CFOs know that the real superpower of any team is the collective intelligence that results from the connection. In this changing world, streamlined collaboration and agility will determine which businesses survive. Connected finance is necessary for those who want to thrive.

(Abhinav Tiwari has worked for Stripe, AWS and Dell in M&A and strategic finance roles.)