In CFO's recently published annual survey, finance chiefs from across a range of industries were asked which of their duties could be made easier by advanced analytics, cloud technology, or automation. While respondents agreed there is value in collaborating with IT leaders to leverage technology in things involving accounting and bookkeeping tasks, their answers varied when it came to where exactly their organizations are on the timeline of said technology’s implementation.
According to survey results, less than half (47%) of respondents said their organizations are, at a minimum, implementing new technology concepts in their solutions. Of this subgroup, only 45% (21% of total respondents) said they have fully adopted a solution and are actively employing it.
Delays in Technology Investment
When asked about the biggest challenges being faced, one answer may hint at why many CFOs' focus isn’t technology-centric.
“The biggest challenges I expect to face are having reliable access to growth capital in an environment in which valuations are far from certain and shifting supplier/manufacturer/retailer power dynamics,” wrote one CFO survey respondent when discussing ongoing challenges.
“When all parties are operating under increased business model pressure, historical norms will quickly go by the wayside,” the respondent continued. “If we are not careful in how we manage relationships, the tendency could quickly devolve from a solid business partnership framework (e.g., shared success) into an every person for themselves mindset.”
Technology doesn’t appear to be the immediate answer to many of the challenges CFOs are facing. While it can function by automating certain aspects of the accounting process or data analysis, even the best technology can’t fix supply chain issues or curb inflation.
Inflation Impact on Business Investment
As C-suites across all industries look to tighten up against a possible recession, investment in areas outside operations or IT are being pushed aside. Respondents indicated areas including marketing (7%), sales (9%), HR (7%), and research development (8%) would be impacted.
“The biggest challenge will be managing really unknown economic headwinds,” wrote one respondent. “[There] seem to be mixed signals like never before. Pressure to increase wages to match the inflationary environment while dealing with a slowing of the economy. Uncertainty is higher now than anytime I remember in the last 20 years.”
Although a majority of CFOs (73%) believe inflation’s effects won’t last longer than two years, 78% of respondents said inflation will have a negative impact on their company’s growth outlook moving forward.
Where CFOs Think Technology Has an Impact Right Now
Outside of the finance areas, 46% of CFOs said operations would receive the biggest focus on technology, with only IT trailing at a significant amount of responses at 21%.
As CFOs are now major players in FP&A in the C-suite, those leveraging technologies seem to be using it to free up their time in order to fulfill those duties. The CFOs who aren’t tied down by data analysis and accounting tasks can focus on forecasting and strategic planning for the organization from a number’s perspective, a key component of the modern CFO.
The focus to drive technology into operations and IT may help facilitate ongoing employment issues too. Automation can fill staffing gaps, increase strategic engagement by employees, and overall increase productivity by eliminating redundancies in the workflows of support staff.
When asked about supply chain issues, one respondent brought up employee retention and engagement as a major issue. “Add to that the challenges of hiring and retaining staff,” said the respondent. “Especially in the skilled trades, and we are struggling to provide the excellent customer service for which we are known.”