Are CFOs behind the new technology curve?
Technology continues to play a significant central role across entire businesses, and the finance function is no exception. The importance of having a robust technology strategy in place became painfully clear when the Covid-19 pandemic hit. While millions of people had to come to terms with working remotely, finance departments still had to carry out typical transactions and processes and try to conduct business as usual.
There has been a longstanding view in certain quarters that some Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are resistant to, or even wary of, new technology – leaving the complexities to the Chief Information Officer (CIO). However, that view, even prior to the pandemic, has been changing, as finance leaders increasingly recognise the important role technology has to play.
And this is an important change. According to a March 2020 Harvard Business Review Analytic Services paper, as reported in Forbes , the shifting role of the CFO beyond its traditional financial confines requires the support of technology.
According to the paper, CFOs now need to layer on the skills of a data scientist. ‘The challenge is no longer gathering data, but what to do with the vast amount of information flowing into the business 24/7,’ it states. ‘Technology can now help CFOs turn real-time data into insights that drive process improvements, which in turn ensures compliance and boosts employee and customer satisfaction.’
CFOs recognise the importance of having technological skills
The need for CFOs to get to grips with new technologies was identified as a key priority in our survey , which was initially conducted in February 2020 and was followed up in May 2020 in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pre-Covid, 42% of respondents said that ‘understanding new technologies’, such as analytics, artificial intelligence and modelling, is an area that should be part of a CFO’s top technical skills. This ranked higher than ‘compliance and risk management’ and ‘being commercially savvy’ – both of which are typically key concerns for the finance function.
When the survey was re-conducted, the figure rose to 49% demonstrating how importantly it is viewed alongside core responsibilities such as ‘financial planning’ and ‘strategic decision-making’.