Future of finance: Turn tech into a competitive advantage

Power smarter decisions to reimagine outcomes.

From informing strategic decisions in the boardroom to risk and stakeholder management, the finance function’s role has grown far beyond providing just monetary and reporting experience. Successful finance leaders possess diverse skill sets and now serve as strategic advisors to the business.

Increasing efficiency and identifying value opportunities are often evergreen priorities for the modern finance leader. They’re especially pertinent now. For finance to remain relevant, business leaders should apply these time-tested skills to a host of new technologies. Finance leaders also work with CHROs to shepherd workforces through the rollout of new solutions and ways of working, upskilling their teams with a people-first mindset.

How can finance get more out of tech investments?

Companies often look to new technologies to help streamline processes, reduce costs and create new opportunities for topline revenue growth. Many, however, fail to take advantage of the possibilities available with their existing technologies.

Case in point: Moving apps and repositories to cloud from on-premises data centers can help reduce costs, but the benefits don’t have to end there. Finance leaders should think about how connecting their data can save them money or even uncover new growth opportunities — for instance, by linking previously siloed and potentially duplicative reporting abilities or uniting ERP and third-party data with forecasting models. By going beyond digital, finance functions can concentrate on what they learn from early adopters and where their priorities should be after moving to cloud.

Financial leaders can further benefit from having a cloud- and data-first mentality about tech infrastructure. No existing or acquired data repository is perfect, but layering new data solutions onto existing infrastructure can help you standardize your data. That way everyone’s talking about the same things in the same way. Leveraging these cloud benefits in unison can create an integrated source of truth for many finance functions to draw from.

What you can do

Build a single source of multiple truths by integrating your existing data and applications so that once disparate processes pull from the same, always-updating well of information.

Historically, the finance function has served as a gatekeeper of financial information. Opening those doors to cross-functional operations can enable the overall business to draw insights and correlate actions to intended outcomes.

Look past simply getting the servers out of your office space to see how cloud integration can benefit your company. Consider the ways you can use cloud tech to help simplify, streamline or speed up your existing finance operations.

The role of finance functions in implementing GenAI

Recent technological breakthroughs in generative AI (GenAI) have been staggering. But in a recent PwC webcast on the power of GenAI in finance, only about 16% of the nearly 6,000 attendees said their departments were piloting GenAI programs, and just 4% said their companies have already initiated mass rollouts. More than 42% said they haven’t even begun implementing GenAI at all.

Finance can play a key role in your company’s GenAI strategy. Making sure businesses get the most out of their investments requires that companies build in responsible AI practices from the outset and work with CHROs to engage and upskill employees to actively reshape how work gets done.

What you can do

Understand the context in which AI can be used in your organization — such as who can use it, when and how it can be used, and how it can impact your organization’s work. Collaborate with IT and other functions to address how you can reduce the risks associated with this technology, maintain the confidentiality and security of your data, and ultimately build trust in what matters to your stakeholders.

To unlock the potential value of a GenAI implementation, make sure to consolidate and organize your data now in a way that can be easily ingested later. Be mindful of transformation and maintenance costs associated with how and where you store your data, and the solutions used with it.

Too often companies think of AI as a magic wand, so make sure the business cases for implementation are strong before you commit to adopting new technologies. Determine what "success" can look like when implementing AI and how you can measure it so that you can remain focused on the outcomes you want, not the hype.

Be transparent and proactively communicate with your customers and employees about what products and services can be provided by AI. Prepare your people to embrace the opportunities and manage the risks of GenAI by providing them with curated upskilling solutions.

If the goals of utilizing GenAI are to help increase efficiency and free up time for human workers, think about what you want to do with that extra time. Will executives tackle higher-level tasks? What will become of entry-level staff who used to perform these time-consuming tasks?

How finance functions can support risk management

Companies often face complex challenges from external business and market environments. Geopolitical conflict, supply chain challenges, inflation and market volatility, intense competition, labor shortages, regulatory change, rapidly changing technology — many of these factors heighten risks across industries. Such turbulence requires improved enterprise strategy development, planning, budgeting and forecasting, and these can create opportunities for finance functions to lead their companies through uncertainty.

Financial planning and analysis teams remain the natural owners of plans and forecasts within a company. Tried and true techniques like sensitivity analysis and scenario planning can help you understand how various business environments or market outcomes could affect company performance. Yes, your FP&A should maintain “base case” plans, but they should also identify alternative scenarios to better understand the impact of various risk cases. The function can then work across the enterprise to develop contingency plans for reacting to these “tail” scenarios, making sure their companies not only survive but thrive during market change.

Likewise, finance’s talent and experience with complex reporting techniques can help lead businesses as they evolve nonfinancial reporting. Climate and sustainability reporting can have many overlapping needs with similar processes in tax and statutory, and may benefit from comparable solutions derived by finance’s extant and rigorous reporting standards. Controllers especially should dedicate resources to support these emerging reporting requirements, collaborating across functions to build solutions.

What you can do

Trust your data and watch the markets. Build base case financial plans but test other potential scenarios so you're well prepared for many outcomes.

Expect the unexpected and be ready to respond or pivot as circumstances dictate. Carefully watch what other companies are doing with new processes and technologies, educate yourself and consider how you can apply these new solutions to your own organization.

Being ready for anything doesn’t mean you know what to expect. When the unknown arrives, a resilient finance function with broad capabilities can respond quickly and readily to almost any challenge.

As finance rises as a leader in forecasting and reporting, work closely with the teams and department heads. Give them the benefit of finance’s experience and existing solutions as they grow their own reporting capabilities around cross-functional data.

What finance leaders should prioritize over the next year

Whether it’s lowering costs, finding savings, increasing revenue or improving employee experience, finance leaders should focus on the outcomes that matter and the metrics to get there. Everyone has their own part to play in transformation. Here’s what finance leaders should prioritize moving forward.

Want to learn more?

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Mark Poulson

Finance Transformation Leader, PwC US

Tabitha DeFrancisco

Finance Transformation Partner, PwC US

Brad Donaldson

Finance Strategy Leader, PwC US

Peter Frank

Finance Transformation, Consumer Markets Industry Leader, PwC US

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