Forbes put the digitalisation challenge currently facing modern CFOs succinctly: “Sadly, CFOs are spread too thin to fully embrace the technological revolution”.
The publication goes on to say that innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics and crypto currency may offer amazing potential to CFOs and their teams but many are simply too overwhelmed to focus adequate attention on making the best use of these new technologies. “I understand AI and machine learning at a high level,” one finance chief confessed to Forbes, adding that CFOs commonly lack the time and expertise to properly evaluate new technologies and they have even less time to fully incorporate them.
“Overwork is a challenge felt by many CFOs,” Forbes continues.
This is unfortunate considering that these many of technologies offer CFOs opportunities to do their work better, from cost savings through the use of cloud-based tools to better forecasting and reporting thanks to data analytics. While most traditional CFOs still spend most of their time – around 60% – on traditional finance roles, they can actually play a critical role in digital transformation because they act as gatekeepers of critical finance data. But there is a lot of work to be done.
According to a 2018 report by McKinsey, 48% of companies had undergone an enterprise-wide transformation in the past three years but only 23% of these were CFO-initiated. For the most part, they are leaving digitalisation initiatives to the rest of the C-Suite and their colleagues working in marketing and IT.
So, what should CFOs do to become digital change makers? We outline a few key points below.
- Improve manual processes by embracing automation.
- Use social media and crowd-sourcing technology to expedite business processes across the finance department.
- Use cloud generated data to be a strategic partner to the CEO.
- Take the time to learn new skills and become more tech savvy so that you can successfully leverage new technological innovations.
- Hire people with the skills to retrieve the data, interpret it and the transform the insights into strategic value.
- Take part in digital transformation conversations. This helps to ensure the CFO’s future relevance.
- Trying to transform your entire operation at once. Rather than trying to automate a process from start to finish, test the waters with a particular, smaller function or task.
- Focusing only on finance. It’s important to break down the walls between IT and finance and to work closely with the CIO to prioritise digitalisation initiatives.
- Fearing change. Companies that fail to embrace digital innovations will fall behind and inactive CFOs and CEOs will be left to explain why they’re being outdone by the competition.
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