Finance leaders, regardless of industry, have lots of ideas about technology's potential impact. Whether it is freeing up more time for the CFO to be an active member of the C-suite, accountants using technology to improve their morale at work, or revamping and modernizing areas of businesses starving for innovation such as human resource departments, technology’s ability to change the way finance teams operate has already begun to showcase itself.
Recent data from Prophix’s 2023 Finance Leaders Survey of 700 finance executives in North America and Europe found that over six in 10 (65%) of finance leaders plan on having half of their duties automated by the end of 2023. Whether it’s to combat mounting external pressures, the internal pressure to perform and transform duties towards modernity, or simply just to make finance teams' lives a little easier, the push towards technology integration continues to be a focal point for finance leaders in western markets.
Automation is Happening Now
While industry tends to determine the specifics on automation applicability, leaders shared with Prophix the different ways they hope to harness its value. Among the varying responses, 41% said they hope to enable transformation through automation efforts, with slightly over a third (35%) saying they hope automation efforts will free up more time to focus on high-value tasks.
Surveyors also tallied 27% of respondents who said they were already fully automated. On top of the 65% who plan to automate completely, that leaves less than 1 in 10 (8%) financial leaders with no plans for automation in 2023 whatsoever. Surveyors found Canadian businesses are far ahead of the west in automation implementation already, with 35% of their businesses already having over half of their practices automated, 10 percentage points higher than the average in Western markets.
Concerns, Focus, and Roles
Next to the challenges CFOs face in purchasing technology, financial leaders additionally developing tech solutions to deal with external macro pressures. Prophix findings indicate inflation (38%), energy prices (27%), and a recession (22%) are the top worries for leaders right now. The worries vary geographically as well, with inflation being selected more by leaders in North America. European companies, presumably as a result of the growing conflict in Ukraine, show much more concern with rising energy prices than inflation.
This implementation of automation has changed the demands of a job of a financial leader, too. When asked what best describes their focus in the finance department, 43% said it is finding innovative ways to drive efficiencies and generate insights. This, alongside the 31% who said their duties are ensuring the finance department is elevated to play a key role as a strategic contributor to the business, is a perfect example of how the finance leader’s role is shifting away from traditional accounting and money management duties and towards organizational leadership through a financial lens.
Similarly, nearly four in 10 (38%) said their role entails seeking innovative optimizations for efficiencies and process improvements to drive financial performance. Just over a third (35%) said they guide the strategic direction of their organization and play a big role in transforming the finance department.
The Importance of Agility
The need to be agile in response to 2023's challenges markets is well-covered territory, even if there may be evidence that finance leaders don't always feel supported in the effort to drive innovation. Surveyors found 96% of leaders agreed that agility is important, with 84% of those surveyed going as far as to call themselves ‘very or quite’ agile.
According to findings, business and professional services and manufacturing companies have difficulties with agility. Prophix reports these industries were more likely to cite aligning people, processes, and technology as their top concern.
The idea of being adaptable in business, and having a leader that can keep their head on swivel to be proactive and reactive in decision-making, defines leadership and how teams perceive these leaders. CFOs who showcase the ability to do their job with flexibility and authenticity will not only put themselves in a position to get the best talent moving forward, but they'll be able to leverage new types of automation technology as it continues to push its way through the essence of how corporate finance is done.