The events of the previous year forced many businesses to make fast and dramatic changes to the way they operate. In the space of a few weeks, businesses had to create new strategies and plans that would enable them to maintain their fundamental stability throughout the upheaval.
Businesses were also compelled to take stock of their existing processes and make strategic decisions to help them meet customer needs in better and faster ways.
Strenuous responsibility for these initiatives fell — and continues to fall today — on CFOs and finance teams. As the guardians of the financial health of the business, finance leaders have had to leverage the lessons of the pandemic and address many newly revealed shortcomings in business operations.
To attempt to understand how finance leaders are approaching these challenges, we conducted a survey of more than 1,200 CFOs and other finance professionals. We included leaders across more than 12 industries and in five global regions to address as diverse a cross section as possible of this demographic. We asked them about their current challenges and their plans for improving their finance operations in 2021, and about how those plans may have needed to change in response to the shifting economic climate.
We also asked about technology and how finance leaders may plan to expand automation in their organizations. In addition, we wanted to know respondents’ views on data — how their operations are impacted by data quality and the ability to use it to generate actionable insights.
Distributed Workforces Refocus CFOs’ Priorities on Technology
The majority of CFOs and finance leaders we surveyed —75% — reported that, as expected, the COVID-19 pandemic has had adverse impacts on finance operations in the past year.
These finance leaders have already taken specific steps to help their operations be more resilient in the face of the lingering effects of COVID-19. Among those surveyed, a large cohort — 40% — indicated that they have invested in technology to support a distributed workforce. And 36% indicated that they have begun expanding automation of tasks within their finance operations.
It’s clear that for this set of finance leaders, the crisis-driven impetus to get new technology in place even supersedes more traditional finance goals such as managing expenses and fostering enterprise growth. They are well aware that, although their teams may continue to work remotely, the demands being made on them will only intensify. They acknowledge the need for better digital tools to help them coordinate even more closely and develop the necessary agility to protect the business’s cash flow and plan for its future.
Aspirations for Improving Data Quality
Survey respondents also recognize that for automation technologies to work properly and bring about the level of step change their organizations need in 2021, they need to utilize high-quality data. A large segment of survey respondents indicated that data quality is a main focus of their current plans to improve finance operations.
That said, a high percentage of the CFOs and finance leaders surveyed said that managing data is one of their most significant challenges. A notable 98% of finance leaders surveyed indicated that they struggle to manage customer data in one or more areas.
Download the Survey Report: The Dynamic Finance Organization — How CFOs Will Lead Progress and Recovery in 2021
Our survey highlighted quite a few of the shortcomings that create obstacles for finance teams. It also revealed that finance leaders are increasingly turning to innovative automation technologies to help them surmount these difficulties.
Respondents told us that they have made implementations in some areas, but in others progress is lagging behind, especially within the credit-to-cash process. They also need better systems and tools to improve efficiency and create accurate, real-time strategic insights in a rapidly changing business landscape.
- CFOs’ and Finance Leaders’ Priorities for 2021 and Beyond
- Responses to Pandemic-Related Business Impacts
- Plans for Improving Financial Operations
- Data Management and Forecasting Challenges
- Automation in Finance Organizations: Present and Future State
- Finance Processes with the Most Potential for Automation