The Next Frontier of Value Creation

A Report from the 2018 CFO of the Future Summit

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The next frontier of value creation will increasingly be built on ecosystems: a digitally-driven world where firm boundaries are blurred, multi-organization collaboration is the norm, data and analytics are the new currency, and customer outcomes are paramount.

For chief financial officers, balancing the spectrum of traditional and ecosystem-based business models will not only be game-changing, but also bring unprecedented challenges and opportunities. As industries and organizations begin to shift to more ecosystem-driven environments, the CFO growth agenda will need to pivot from firm-specific operations to ecosystem-wide operations, as well as from balancing customer value to maximizing ecosystem value. Throughout this evolution, CFOs will continue to reinvent firm-wide capabilities, build new collaborations and revenue models, deploy cutting-edge machine learning and analytics, and cultivate human capital that can thrive in a rapidly evolving digital world.

At The 2018 CFO of the Future Summit: The Next Frontier of Value Creation, CFOs wrestled with key issues including: How is value created, measured, and shared across organizations and customers in traditional and ecosystem-based business models? What will the role of the CFO look like in an ecosystem-based world? How will human capital need to adjust to a spectrum of traditional and ecosystem-based strategy?

This report highlights key findings from the Summit. In particular, it features several cases illuminating value creation in an ecosystem-based world, the evolving role of the CFO, and effective leadership strategies for finance innovators.

  • Dominic Caruso, outgoing CFO at Johnson & Johnson, explains how creating a framework of excellence with clear expectations around financial performance for the finance team has helped the company raise its dividend each year without cutting into innovation.
  • Kathy Waller, Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer, and President of Enabling Services at Coca-Cola, explains how the company has reinvented itself, pivoting from being a volume-driven bottler to a total beverage company - a move that has increased the relevancy of Coca-Cola’s brand across consumer segments.
  • Carolyn Nash, Senior Director of Business Finance at Red Hat, explains how company-wide input on business decisions was pivotal to creating value in unlikely places and how the finance team learned to operate in Red Hat’s ecosystem, rather than trying to control it..

We hope this report offers new ideas, strategies, and insights to finance leaders and their organizations as they develop strategies and approaches to generating the next frontier of value creation.

A letter from the Executive Director

Dr. Antonio Oftelie, Executive Director of Leadership for a Networked World, reflects on this year's summit and it's implications.

Read his letter here. >

“In order to differentiate ourselves in our industry, we have to constantly reinvent ourselves and keep a foot in tomorrow.”
Grant Ireland
Senior Managing Director of Corporate Finance Planning & Strategy, Accenture

Report Insights

  1. Building an Ecosystem of People to Drive Value at Johnson & Johnson

    One of the defining characteristics of Caruso’s 12-year tenure as CFO of J&J has been to reorient the finance team around a specific standard of excellence and core principles. Rather than relying on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) or other performance measures, Caruso redefined the baseline of business proficiency he expected of the finance team. He calls it the finance competency model. The model has three components—performance, leadership, and integrity. For Caruso, each component forms one side of a pyramid with value in the middle. Lose one side of the pyramid and value escapes. Ultimately the model is designed to evolve the finance team from a group of forecasters and monitors into a group of business leaders. To drive value within J&J, the finance team is expected to deliver superior financial performance by finding solutions that enable business growth, increase shareholder value, and address the needs of its ecosystem stakeholders.

  2. Developing a Growth-Mindset at Coca-Cola

    It’s not news that the role of the CFO has changed. Finance teams dominated by accountants, risk officers, and administrators are a thing of the past. To create value in the future, finance will have to move beyond controlling the risks of the present to anticipating the opportunities and risks of the future. Traditional tools, such as strong governance, rigorous risk management and sound forecasting, are still important, but they must be supported by a willingness to innovate and experiment with new ideas that may not immediately pay off.

  3. Leveraging the Ecosystem and Company Culture to Maximize Value at Red Hat

    Red Hat—the world’s leading provider of open source solutions—has experienced rapid growth in a quickly evolving industry. To support this level of growth, the finance team has had to update its processes, layer in new digital tools, develop deeper insights on customers, and work across the business to help the entire company better understand the new landscape. The finance team made this transition by studying the existing ecosystem of the organization and learning how to work within it. From there, the CFO has been able to put finance in a leadership role, guiding innovation within a sound governance framework.

“We have to think about critical tasks, cultural norms, values, informal rules, informal power networks, the formal organization, and the strategic groupings. Creating an ecosystem means formally linking the information, human resource management systems, and career systems, and creating alignment.”
David Ager
Senior Fellow, Executive Education, Harvard Business School


Finance teams in every organization are at an inflection point. The core function of the CFO is to predict within a reasonable degree of certainty how and where an organization is expected to grow over the short, medium, and long terms. However, what industry will look like just one year from now is unclear. In order to stay ahead of these changes and disruptions, CFOs and finance teams will have to work on building internal and external ecosystems of partners and technology to help identify areas for growth, and to explore the innovations of tomorrow.

In order to create successful ecosystems, CFOs must build strategies that work within existing systems, rather than against them. By including all parts of the organization in business decisions, finance teams can identify new ideas from unlikely sources that can lead to unexpected value creation. Harnessing the power of new technologies including artificial intelligence can drive deeper insights about customers and competitors that will position the finance team to make better decisions and help keep companies competitive and agile.

CFOs can also lead the way when it comes to creating external ecosystems of vendor partners and anchor customers. While it may require a culture shift at the outset in order to engage vendors as partners in growth, ultimately those relationships can be a springboard for value creation and rapid scaling. Similarly, engaging with anchor customers to explore new ideas can help the organization unlock fresh areas of innovation or refine existing services in a way that maximizes value.

As finance teams work through these concepts and take a lead role here, it will be important to consider key questions, such as: Who are the internal and external stakeholders that could become part of an advisory ecosystem? Can we share services or business with our vendors in new ways that maximize growth for both sides? What networks already exist internally that we could leverage to identify new value opportunities?

By leading from within, the finance team can shape the public face of their organizations while also driving external partnerships that propel the company to the next level. CFOs that become enablers of innovation will be the leaders in shaping a successful growth agenda.

The Executive Leadership Group

Leadership for a Networked World, and the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard would like to thank the Executive Leadership Group for their vision and ideas that aided the development of this Summit.

Brett Biggs
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Jeffrey Campbell
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
American Express
Dominic Caruso
Chief Financial Officer
Johnson & Johnson
Alison Engel
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Kevin Jacobs
Chief Financial Officer
Zane Rowe
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
David Rowland
Chief Financial Officer
Eric Shander
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Red Hat
Carol Tomé
Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President - Corporate Services
The Home Depot
Tracey Travis
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
The Estée Lauder Companies Inc.
Kathy Waller
Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and President, Enabling Services

In Collaboration with

Accenture Strategy operates at the intersection of business and technology, combining deep industry expertise, advanced analytics capabilities and human-led design methodologies that enable clients to act with speed and confidence. By identifying clear, actionable paths to accelerate competitive agility, Accenture Strategy helps leaders in the C-suite envision and execute strategies that drive growth in the face of digital transformation. For more information, follow @AccentureStrat or visit

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Leadership for a Networked World’s applied research, student innovation challenge, and on-campus summit programs are an initiative of Dr. Antonio M. Oftelie, Innovation Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), part of the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. TECH is a hub for students, faculty, alumni, and government and industry leaders to learn together, collaborate, and innovate. LNW accelerates these efforts by connecting leaders across sectors and developing cutting-edge thought leadership on innovation and organizational transformation.

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