Enterprise finance leaders have ranked analytics technology and robotic process automation (RPA) as their top digital priorities for 2021.
According to research firm Gartner, “most” CFOs have already conducted small-scale experiments in advanced analytics technologies and RPA, as well as artificial intelligence (AI).
“The key will be achieving scale with these technologies while ensuring that CFOs have the talent in place to run an always-on, fully digital business,” Alexander Bant, chief of research at the research firm's Finance practice, said.
“CFOs face dual demands in funding the broader digital enterprise, while also ensuring their own function is equipped with the tools, technologies and talent for successful transformation. Fortunately, many digital priorities, such as RPA, should also be supportive of CFOs’ cost optimisation goals, at least long-term.”
As an example, Bant said that RPA could be used to free up employee time on repeatable and transactional tasks.
Meanwhile, advanced digital analytics technologies have the potential for finance organisations to deliver insights at-scale, as well as creating long-term competitive advantages. This focus comes as CFOs are looking to meet new business realities, Gartner claimed. This includes a greater expectancy for speed, multichannel delivery and always-on availability in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meeting the expectations of CFOs can be important for partners, with Gartner research vice president Derry Finkeldey claiming that building up a rapport with CFOs in particular can be beneficial.
“Providers really need to understand and have a good relationship with the CFO...more than ever before because they are scrutinising every purchase," she previously said to ARN.
“It requires providers to understand is business impact of what they're talking about, or what they're doing for their customers, and helping them to be their champions internally to be able to understand that and, more importantly, to demonstrate it to make the case.”
The digital priorities of CFOS were determined through a survey conducted by the research firm with 173 of the finance leaders in October.
In the survey, advanced data analytics technologies and tools in finance came out on top as a priority, with 82 per cent of respondents expecting to spend more time in the area next year. However, nearly as many were concerned with being able to reach their goals with the technology area, at 78 per cent.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced CFOs to abruptly assess both their organisations’ and functions’ current digital capabilities, and they have clearly found many areas lacking,” said Bant. “Next year will be about accelerating digital investment timelines from the pace of a multi-year marathon to a 12 month sprint. However, most CFOs aren’t sure they will successfully cross the finish line in many of these areas.”
Following on from data analytics were RPA and other workflow automation technologies, which had 66 per cent of CFOs looking to focus on the area next year, but 56 per cent see difficulty in reaching their intended goals with the tech.
In third was a general acceleration of finance-related digital skills, with it being a priority for 60 per cent of CFOs in the year to come, yet half of the respondents expect it to be difficult to achieve their digital acceleration skills goals.