A new breed of CFO is putting greater emphasis on taking a forward-looking approach to the rest of the business, and driving growth through sharper insights from data, which increasingly are provided on a near real-time basis, according to analysis from Accenture and Oracle. In their report, “Empowering Modern Finance: The CFO as Technology Evangelist,” the firms made this assessment based on a survey of 1,275 respondents — 975 senior finance and 300 non-finance executives — from a number of industries, including insurance.
Nearly 68 percent of respondents said the CFO is a strong evangelist for the transformational potential of technology, but 20 percent think finance organizations have adopted leading-edge technology.
The findings also reveal progress in implementing new technologies against a patchy perception of the finance function by decision makers, the firms said. For example, 23 percent of the non-finance executives surveyed said the ability of finance to offer a current view of performance against budget “falls below expectations,” and even 42 percent of the finance executives surveyed see room for improvement. Still, finance professionals are increasingly seen as proactive collaborators, with 80 percent overall judging finance to be “excellent” or “above average” in its ability to collaborate with the rest of the business.
While 72 percent of finance executives said cloud, mobile technology and social media will change how finance is structured and run, 28 percent of finance respondents already use cloud technology to support budgeting, planning and forecasting, according to the survey. Another 34 percent plan to move those functions into the cloud within the next year. Additionally, more than two-thirds have either already adopted a cloud-based system in some part of their organizations for core financials (24 percent) or they are charting a road map to do so (45 percent). Nearly 50 percent use mobile apps and 53 percent leverage Web-based systems to manage business processes.
Finance functions are also making progress in addressing the skills gaps they encounter as new responsibilities require more tech-savvy staff, according to the report; 79 percent of respondents agree that finance is meeting or exceeding expectations in the delivery of real-time analytics for executive decision-making. To fulfill the need for new skills and analytics capabilities to execute the modern finance mandate, nearly half of respondents have seen an increase in the number of finance analysts hired since 2011.
“It is encouraging to see the progress and foresight that finance leaders have demonstrated as they break down traditional operational barriers and harness new technologies,” said Scott Brennan, managing director, Accenture Strategy in Finance & Enterprise Performance. “These modern finance organizations will want to train and hire professionals with robust analytical skills and business knowledge to help today’s CFO realize the full potential that finance has to offer.”
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