Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” If there’s a better description of working in the world of finance and accounting, I’ve yet to find it.

For those of you that have attended an industry event or picked up a trade journal recently, you’ve undoubtedly heard discussion of the CFO ‘Change Agent’ and the shifting mindset of finance leaders from narrowly scoped fiduciary oversight to a broader role encompassing business transformation. There are countless examples suggesting this change is accelerating, and the ‘change agent’ role — which requires a delicate balance of calculated risk taking and strategic planning — is rapidly becoming the norm for many successful, growing businesses.

A recent study from Accenture sheds light on some of the defining characteristics of CFO Change Agents:

CFO Change Agents are Catalysts for Collaboration — CFOs and finance leaders are already accountable for managing vital aspects of the business such as controlling costs, cash flow and working capital. Now leading CFOs must also be capable of collaborating across the business to understand organizational priorities and to implement strategies that support future growth. Of course, to collaborate effectively finance groups first need tools that integrate and foster ongoing dialog with other teams across the business, which leads us to the next point.

CFO Change Agents Shape IT and Technology Investments — I’ve already discussed the shift to the CFO Tech Buyer, but Accenture’s study further highlights this trend with 57 percent of survey respondents stating that “investments in big data and analytics will be a key source of competitive advantage.” Not surprisingly, the study also recommends finance leaders collaborate with CIOs to adopt and implement emerging technologies designed to improve organizational agility and drive efficiencies across the business.

CFO Change Agents Lead Business Transformation…When They Have Time — The vast majority of CFOs report having more influence over corporate strategy than in previous years, however many are still struggling with managing business transformation projects due to other responsibilities. In speaking with finance leaders and peers, we often hear that day-to-day accountabilities tend to interfere with longer-term strategic objectives. This is one of the many reasons financial management platforms like TRACT offer benefits beyond reducing errors and costs. They also help to free finance executives to focus on the big picture.

CFOs have more opportunity to impact the direction of the business than ever before. However, to effectively influence change across the broader organization, finance leaders should first take a hard look to ensure their own house is in order and ready to lead by example.