The modern chief finance officer is a technology evangelist who recognises the value of digital and cloud technologies for the finance function and the business as a whole, but a gap remains between CFO ambitions and reality, according to a new study by Longitude Research.
Co-sponsored by Oracle and Accenture, the report also reveals that to act as a strategic partner to the business, forward-thinking finance teams are using sophisticated analytical tools, modern applications and the latest social, mobile, cloud and collaboration tools to stay closely linked to the vision, strategies and activities of their peers across the enterprise.
While the study found that many CFOs are making major strides toward creating a more productive and efficient technology-enabled finance function, it is clear that much work lies ahead. For example, too many companies still rely on outdated data for key decision-making, not least due to the challenges of consolidating numerous disparate systems.
Over two-thirds of respondents agree the CFO is a strong evangelist for the transformational potential of technology and nearly three-quarters of finance executives believe new technologies such as the cloud, mobile technology and social media will change how finance is structured and run.
However, only 20 percent of C-suite executive respondents believe that their finance organisations have adopted leading-edge technologies, in contrast to sales organizations, in which 43 percent of C-suite executives view as already having done so.
Nearly half of respondents saw an increase in the number of finance analysts hired over the past two years, reflecting the growing need for finance talent with a deeper and broader range of business and analytical skills.
For example, 23 percent of non-finance respondents feel that the ability of finance to provide an up-to-date view of performance against budget “falls below expectations,” and nearly twice as many finance respondents (42 percent) think they could do far better.
Survey respondents clearly see the potential for the cloud to deliver new insights through advanced analytics and business intelligence. More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) are already using the cloud to support budgeting, planning and forecasting, and another 34 percent plan to move them into the cloud within the next year.
In addition, more than two-thirds of executives surveyed have either already adopted a cloud-based system in some part of their organisation for core financials (24 percent), or are planning a road map for doing so (45 percent).
While about 30 percent of finance and line of business executives responding agree their processes are still paper-based, there is a clear trend toward automating and digitising processes, with nearly 50 percent now using mobile apps and 53 percent leveraging web-based systems.
Only 5 percent of respondents cite lack of senior management support as a barrier to adopting new technologies in the finance function. Ability, rather than willingness, seems to be a greater factor, with 38 percent of respondents citing lack of internal skills as a key barrier.