From technology to talent: Five trends that should be atop every CFO’s agenda

Becker Archerd Senior Manager, Advisory, Private Company Services, PwC US

As today’s businesses look to finance to take the lead on innovation bets, CFOs have to be more nimble and visionary than ever. They are key partners in navigating growth opportunities that are data driven, forward looking, risk aware, and collaborative. And CFOs are finding ways to utilize insights across organizational culture, talent, digital technologies and governance.

At PwC, we see five key trends that should be atop every CFO’s agenda:

1. Digitalization of finance and accounting

72% of organizations globally expect to achieve advanced levels of digitization by 2020

Source: PwC CFO Survey

The pressure on today’s CFO is enormous. Customers expect real-time service. Shareholders’ demands are ever-increasing. Low-growth environments and increasing costs are hitting virtually every sector. Traditional operational strategies—outsourcing/offshoring,re-structuring/process re-engineering, and automation through core systems upgrades—are offering less. These are just a few of the common themes that have led CFOs to make technology their favorite and most important instrument.

Most businesses today aspire to an end-to-end digitization process, and our experience shows that successful transformations include the following digital finance elements:

  • Digital finance workforce
  • Modern finance workplaces
  • Intelligent automation
  • Predictive enterprise risk
  • Pre-configured Cloud ERP
  • Connected, self-service data
  • Assisted insights & performance

2. Robotic process automation (RPA)

Robotic process automation uses software to automate tasks. It hasn’t been a traditional component of businesses’ IT infrastructure, but it’s becoming more and more common because of its critical role in increasing efficiencies and productivity in the back office. These software systems don’t replace existing ERP systems, but work with them and help to bridge and automate manual interfaces between systems.

By developing robotic process automation systems, CFOs are building foundations for future scale and success. Automation drastically reduces transaction processing needs and enables the business to shift its focus to strategy and performance management. In addition, robotic process automation can drastically reduce headcount, eliminate reconciliations, enable virtual closing and consolidation and shift companies to exception management.

3. Real-time analytics

The democratization of data, business intelligence and data science is eliminating the competitive advantage from analytics and turning it into table-stakes. The future of the finance function will likely use predictive and scenario analysis to find opportunities and gain decision-making confidence.

CFOs can use these advanced analytics to determine where to invest, including new markets, channels, partnerships and R&D. In addition, CFOs may be able to more effectively manage performance, profitability and risk across the enterprise.

4. Reporting and data visualization

Leading finance organizations want to be digital, value-adding, profit-maximizing insight partners to businesses. This means investing not only in technology to speed reporting and analysis, but also in data visualization tools to improve user experience and provide actionable insights.

Data visualization enables executives to have real-time performance data, meaning more transparency and more accountability. It allows for continuous monitoring and proactive solutions by indicating problems before they inhibit the go-to-market aspect of the business. This leads to enhanced performance accountability, impactful KPI measurement and proactive problem solving.

5. Talent competition: Workforce of the future

Digital technologies are changing the skills and capabilities of finance organizations, and ultimately redefining roles and creating new ones. 78% of our survey respondents in PwC’s Workforce Transformation report on the competing forces shaping 2030 believe their organizations have not done long-term finance workforce planning despite all the questions around it: How should organizations develop their future talent pipeline? From where should organizations source their talent? What sort of profile should the CFO of the future have?

50% of CFOs say that their teams lack the right skills mix to meet evolving business needs 60% of employees think ‘few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future’ 74% of employees are ready to learn new skills or re-train to remain employable in the future

Source: PwC’s Workforce of the future: the competing forces shaping 2030

The popular view suggests larger companies can continue getting ‘first pick’ of available talent, and that industry knowledge and experience can dictate the CFO profile requirements. At PwC, we think otherwise. Come 2030, we see an end to traditional CFO profiles, and a preference toward CFOs with superior stakeholder management skills and cross-functional/cross-industry experience. Change is imminent and leading finance organizations should consider a modern workforce plan that includes:

  • Rethinking talent: Acquiring and retraining talent as the field evolves and the boundaries between man and machine get redefined
  • Structure and alignment: Organizational alignment of priorities and approaches to deploying data, analytics, and AI. The data and analytics operating model you choose determines your ability to capture new shareholder value.
  • Management and cultural shift: Broader change management as one adopts a data-driven/algorithm driven decision-making culture

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Becker Archerd

Senior Manager, Advisory, Private Company Services, PwC US

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