The position of CFO is being reshaped by modern forces, and today’s finance leaders manage day-to-day and other short-term accounting functions, as well as long-term executive strategy.
Yet, the unfortunate reality of technological disruption is that ideas often outpace execution, frequently by years, and while CFOs have been empowered (and in many cases expected) to juggle added priorities, they usually have an out-of-date toolkit for their entirely different job.
CFOs embracing technology to manage disruption can see a new era of productivity and performance, while also having more time to innovate for sustained growth. And automation and artificial intelligence are increasingly disrupting the finance function, enabling finance leaders to spend more time shaping strategy with the CEO.
A changing CFO
CFOs are optimistic about the future. Over 80% surveyed in a study by Accenture say the work that they do is meaningful, while 78% of more junior respondents feel there’s never been a more exciting time to be a finance professional.
The future of work has made finance departments increasingly interdisciplinary, and most leaders say modern finance departments outperform other parts of the business in key areas, including:
- Forecasting the long-term value of a technology investment (80% of respondents)
- Guiding the successful adoption of emerging technologies (78%)
- Balancing investments into core and new business technologies (78%)
- Combining different data sets (77%)
- Managing cyber-related risk (76%)
This relies on clearly defined goals, and now more than ever, CFOs say their jobs entail:
- Targeting areas of new value across the business as a main responsibility (81%)
- Driving business-wide transformation (77%)
- Improving efficiency through adoption of digital technology (77%)
- Training executives in non-finance functions to take on finance activities such as reporting, planning, budgeting and forecasting (67%)
So, how do finance leaders expect to accomplish this?
78% of them say the digitalization of finance is empowering professionals with transformative insights that are faster and more accurate, and artificial intelligence, among other technologies, is quickly catching on among today’s CFOs (64%).
But whatever the tech investment, 76% of CFOs are in agreement that the business will waste resources and struggle to meet targets without having ‘one version of the truth’ across the enterprise.
New roads, old roadblocks
Of course, the expanded CFO JD is not without its obstacles. In fact, 56% of CFOs say they can’t focus on priorities because—on top of having more responsibilities than ever before—they still have to spend the majority of their time on compliance, control and costs, as was revealed a CFO survey by Ernst and Young.
CFOs are concerned that finance departments:
- May be out of sync with the rest of company when it comes to adopting digital technologies (64%)
- Are often too reactive and not proactive enough because data is outdated or not streamlined (53%)
- Are not realizing expected ROI from digitization investments (<50%)
It’s also worth noting, just 34% of finance tasks are currently being digitized, but Accenture estimates that between 60% to 80% could be. And that would free CFOs to spend even more time focusing on strategic priorities.
But with the fairly slow pace of technological innovation in finance, and the even slower pace of adoption in general, CFOs anticipate that less than 50% of all finance tasks will be performed by machines by 2021.
The future of finance
Simply put, finance departments are under increasing pressure to reduce costs, support growth and provide key business insights under increasingly uncertain market conditions. Now more than ever, intelligent automation solutions are critical to sound decision making, enabling finance departments to harness the power of organizational data to streamline the accounting function.
It’s safe to say the modern CFO is a key player in organizational success, especially in times of disruption. With new and powerful tools at their disposal, CFOs are better poised to guide their organizations along the safest and most profitable path, and into a brighter future.
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