Why hybrid manufacturing CFOs are increasingly expected to operationalise and lead digital transformation initiatives


The role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) in the manufacturing sector is undergoing a significant transformation. Traditionally seen as the gatekeepers of financial integrity and corporate compliance, CFOs in manufacturing are now finding themselves leading digital transformation initiatives.

This shift towards a hybrid role that encompasses both financial stewardship and operational leadership is not merely a trend but a response to the increasing complexity and competitiveness of the manufacturing industry. These hybrid manufacturing CFOs are increasingly expected to become more operationally aligned, with a particular focus on the role that IT and systems like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) are driving in this transition.

Our Annual Manufacturing CFO Survey showed that 52 per cent of CFOs in this sector are increasingly expected to operationalise digital transformation, which points towards a greater involvement in operational areas.

Hybrid CFOs bridge the gap between finance and operations

The manufacturing sector is marked by rapid technological advancements, shifting consumer expectations and the relentless pursuit of efficiency and innovation. Digital transformation, once a strategic choice, has become a necessity for survival and growth.

In this context, ERP systems have played a pivotal role in integrating various business processes, providing real-time insights and driving agility. However, the successful implementation and optimisation of these systems require more than just the expertise of the IT team; they demand strategic vision, financial acumen and a deep understanding of operational workflows, qualities that only hybrid CFOs possess.

For this reason, most CFOs we spoke to (85 per cent) are either part of or lead their digital transformation project teams. These hybrid CFOs are perfectly positioned to lead digital transformation initiatives. Their comprehensive understanding of the company’s financial health and insights into operational efficiencies enable them to make informed decisions on technology investments that drive growth and competitiveness.

Driving ERP-led digital transformation

By operationalising digital transformation with ERP as the linchpin, hybrid CFOs ensure that technology adoption is not just an IT project, but a strategic business move that aligns with the company’s financial goals and operational realities.

ERP systems are at the heart of digital transformation efforts in the African manufacturing sector. These systems offer a unified platform to streamline processes, enhance decision-making and improve operational efficiencies. Hybrid CFOs play a crucial role in driving ERP-led transformation programs to ensure that their manufacturing companies can achieve their objectives of being agile and resilient against a barrage of market pressures out of their control.

A new era of responsible growth and resilience

The rise of the Hybrid CFO is ushering in a new era of responsible growth and resilience. Companies were traditionally focused on making profits and achieving their business goals. However, it is possible to accomplish these objectives while also improving resilience. This improved resilience will enable manufacturers to take advantage of new opportunities, with 60 per cent citing the need to expand their revenue streams and 60 per cent innovating with a new product line.

The CFOs we spoke to said that reducing costs and increasing revenue were equally popular strategies for building resilience. While 48 per cent of them are saying that cutting overheads and increasing margins to end customers were priorities, they were cautious because both tactics come with challenges.

Hybrid CFOs are well-equipped to navigate these challenges by enabling a culture of innovation, ensuring seamless communication between departments and aligning digital initiatives with financial performance metrics.


As the African manufacturing sector changes, the convergence of finance and technology will become increasingly pronounced. Hybrid CFOs will be at the forefront of this transformation, driving innovation, operational excellence and financial sustainability. Their role in operationalising and leading digital transformation initiatives will redefine the scope of financial leadership and shape the future of manufacturing in this country.

The onus is on manufacturing CFOs to continue adapting to a rapidly changing world and leveraging the power of their company’s data to make better strategic, operational, and financial decisions as they lead digital transformation initiatives for their organisation.

As the manufacturing sector continues to navigate the complexities of modern manufacturing, the hybrid CFO will play a pivotal role in ensuring that African manufacturers not only survive but thrive in the face of significant change and extraordinary market pressures.

Aucamp van der Schyff, Head of Finance at SYSPRO EMEA