The modern chief financial officer (CFO) is emerging as a technology-enabled, analytics-driven function providing a 360-degree view of the business.
CFOs are more technologically savvy than ever, and increasingly have the IT function reporting to them, according to a new global survey by Adaptive Insights.
The survey finds that while CFOs remain worried about growing economic volatility, the vast majority are confident in their forecasts, and believe the combination of big data, analytics, and scenario planning will likely be the key to navigating their organisations through financial uncertainty.
Adaptive Insights says it surveyed last month 377 CFOs (including 10 per cent from New Zealand and Australia) for the CFO Indicator Q1 2016 report .
When asked about their personal proficiency in technology overall, an overwhelming majority (93 per cent) of the CFOs say they are moderately, very, or extremely proficient.
Ninety five per cent of these CFOs say they are moderately, extremely, or very proficient with Excel, with proficiency with their enterprise resource planning (ERP) software coming in second (67 per cent).
CFOs believe big data and analytics will have the single biggest effect on their future role.
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An even 50 per cent feel moderate, very or extremely proficient with customer relationships management (CRM) software.
The report says this is not surprising as CFOs and their finance teams are increasingly mining CRM data for valuable insights beyond day-to-day operations and pipeline to inform their strategic plans.
On technologies that CFOs are most likely to invest in to support strategic finance activities, more than half (56 per cent) reported they are very or completely likely to invest in dashboards and analytics, and 46 per cent are very or completely likely to invest in reporting.
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The CFOs are using analytics to drive the scenario planning process. The challenge for CFOs, according to the report, is combining financial data with real-time transactional data and real-time operational data to see the impact of investments.
This combination does a better job predicting where the business is going, using leading indicators instead of lagging KPIs.
CFOs also expect technologies to increasingly reside in the cloud.The respondents estimate that 33 per cent of their IT infrastructure is in SaaS, and forecast this to grow to 60 per cent of their infrastructure in four years.
When asked for the biggest advantages of using cloud-based or SaaS technologies for financial planning, CFOs cited increased collaboration (24 per cent), less reliance on the IT department (21 per cent), and significant cost savings (17 per cent).
While most CFOs (93 per cent) view compliance as their top priority today, only 62 per cent see this as a priority three years from now.
Rather, the report states, they expect to begin focusing on talent management (78 per cent), transforming financial data into intelligence to drive growth (77 per cent), and understanding how to leverage IT to take advantage of evolving market opportunities (74 per cent).
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