The CFOs’ priority is no longer just cost reduction, according to a survey of nearly 400 CFOs by Grant Thornton and CFO Research.
Many finance leaders are currently focused on implementing technologies, such as advanced analytics (38%) and machine learning (30%), said the auditing firm.
In addition, respondents of the survey plan to dedicate resources to frontier technologies within two years. These technologies include:
- artificial intelligence, or AI (41%);
- drones and robots (30%);
- blockchain (40%); and
- robotic process automation, or RPA (41%).
On CFOs’ radar also include the followings, which the surveyed executives said they plan to expedite their efforts to implement s within the next two years:
- optical character recognition (45%)
- broader distributed ledger technology (44%)
Dramatic changes in tech adoption compared with last year
In just one year, CFOs have seen dramatic changes in technology adoption at their companies, according to Grant Thornton.
- 42% reported their finance functions regularly make use of advanced and automation technologies in corporate development and strategic planning, compared to 18% in Grant Thornton’s 2018 CFO Survey
- 40% reported their finance function have already implemented advanced technologies and automation technologies in risk management, compared to 20% in 2018
- 30% use machine learning, compared to 8% in 2018
- 25% use AI, compared to 7% in 2018
The speed with which CFOs are investing in IT shows a clear vision of the digital transformation they want to see at their companies, said Srikant Sastry, National Managing Principal of Advisory Services at Grant Thornton.
“But, advanced technologies like AI, RPA, drones and robotics require CFOs to focus on specific use cases, workforce preparation and measurements for these technologies to facilitate and maximize a timely return on investment,” he added.
Finance-IT business partnering
As digital transformation becomes a focus, surveyed CFOs are well-positioned to collaborate with IT and ensure that digital investments fit into their organization’s innovation strategies, Grant Thornton pointed out.
- Nearly 91% of respondents agree or strongly agree it is the CFO’s job to ensure their companies fully realize the benefits of technology investments.
- 92% believe the finance function of the future must do a better job of leveraging both technology and people.
The new CFO role
In addition, CFOs see themselves as part of a cross-functional, collaborative team.
- 95% said their company’s CFO is a key stakeholder of enterprise transformation
- 94% reported their company’s CFO actively supports an innovation culture
- 90% agreed the company’s CFO actively shares insights about how to run a lean, efficient function with their peers in business units
Challenges facing CFOs: Skill and collaboration
Changes bring new challenges. As CFOs speed toward transformative technology, 60% believed the finance function must provide advanced analytical support.
The most important skill sets senior financial executives want to develop in the finance function are:
- Data analytics (55%)
- Business strategy (40% )
- Operations management (35%)
- Technology acquisition (33%)
“Over the next two years, talent and skills will be one of the top three challenges the IT function faces as it seeks enterprise growth, along with system complexity and business integration,” said Chris Stephenson, Business Consulting principal at Grant Thornton.
While financial leaders want to recruit and retain employees who possess traditional financial expertise and are eager to learn new technologies and process design, transformation will not end with recruiting and skill development or merely adopting the latest technologies, he noted.
“Working more closely with the IT organization can help the CFO rethink end-to-end finance processes. CFOs and CIOs must closely collaborate on digital transformation to remain competitive,” he advised.