Automation » Automation, strategic roles, and the push for change

Automation, strategic roles, and the push for change

New research from AccountsIQ underscore the trends shaping finance teams and where CFOs should look to shift their approach

The finance profession is undergoing a radical transformation, with technology acting as both a catalyst and a beacon of change.

New research from AccountsIQ highlights a stark reality: finance teams are bogged down by routine tasks, with a staggering amount of time spent on data collection, reconciliation, and reporting.

This inefficiency is further exacerbated by the use of disparate software packages and an over-reliance on spreadsheets. Yet, amidst these challenges lies a silver lining.

The potential to automate 42% of finance activities presents an unprecedented opportunity for CFOs to propel their careers and their teams into more strategic, value-added roles.

The adoption of technology in finance is not without its challenges, however; from the implementation of shared services and automation to the modernisation of commercial finance. CFOs must navigate this complex landscape, ensuring they choose the right tools and maintain data integrity.

Perception and value

The report paints a poignant picture of a profession grappling with issues of perception and value. A significant proportion of finance professionals, both senior (88%) and young professionals (94%) within finance feel undervalued and pigeonholed as a support function.

Over half of the young professionals surveyed do not see themselves remaining in the profession for more than a decade, underscoring a pressing need for change.

Stress and work-life balance are highlighted as critical areas of concern, with more than a third of respondents taking time off due to stress. This human element, often overlooked, is crucial to the future success and sustainability of finance teams.

At the top, the pressure is also mounting. The role of the CFO has seen responsibilities extending into strategy, legal, and people management. CFOs are now seen as the ‘second CEO,’ providing a holistic view of the organisation’s health and steering strategic decisions.

This expansion of role brings its own set of challenges. The prevailing economic uncertainty, amplified by fluctuating salaries and changing expectations in the job market for finance professionals, necessitates a constant reassessment of strategies and careful forecasting.

CFOs must adeptly balance their traditional responsibilities with their newfound roles, ensuring they remain agile and resilient in the face of change.

Efficiency and workload

The journey towards transformation is not without its challenges. Finance professionals find themselves mired in routine tasks, with a significant portion of their time devoted to data collection, reconciliation, and reporting.

The AccountsIQ report highlights the inefficiencies stemming from the use of multiple software packages and an over-reliance on Excel, contributing to errors and operational bottlenecks. This scenario underscores the need for a streamlined approach, as seen in Uber’s finance function, which played a pivotal role in the company’s turnaround through strategic efficiency gains.

Software and tools

While there is a general sense of satisfaction with current software capabilities, the AccountsIQ report indicates that there is room for improvement.

The prevalence of errors and the limitations of tools like Excel are highlighted as areas of concern, pointing towards a need for enhanced tools and solutions to aid the finance function’s evolution.

Whilst over 90% of CFOs plan to increase investment in finance technology, concerningly only 30% of projects succeed, according to the Finance Technology Report by Gartner. But if the business gets it right from the plethora of software applications available, it could mean a high ROI and a streamlining of processes.

Ultimately, in order to try and navigate the saturated technology market, CFO need to look at the pain points within their business, rather than trying to keep up with every new piece of software.

Whilst technology has made things a lot easier for CFOs to report on, it is still the job of the CFO to narrate, interpret and analyse that information.

Future expectations and AI

Looking ahead, there is a palpable sense of readiness among finance professionals to embrace AI and its transformative potential.

Advancements in AI technology hold the potential to provide CFOs with enhanced insights into their organisation’s financial performance and facilitate proactive planning. With analytical and predictive capabilities, AI tools are positioned to expedite critical processes like financial forecasting and planning.

However, the AccountsIQ report also notes concerns among senior professionals regarding AI as a potential job threat, indicating a need for clear communication and strategic planning to navigate the transition.

With more ‘traditional’ technologies, teams could get away with using a small team of people with knowledge of said tool for implementation to be success. The skills required were often iterations of previous technologies and did not require additional training.

AI is different.

AI can emulate tasks that only people were thought to be able to do. But it cannot emulate a human exactly. According to new research from Gartner, 70% of employees fear that AI will replace them, which drives scepticism and resistance from operational staff – one of the key barriers to AI adoption.

These barriers can be avoided by CFO’s positioning AI as a co-worker that helps people to do their jobs better. To start, operational staff will help design solutions so that AI-driven machines are effective. They will also need to learn how to leverage that new level of support.

Meanwhile, managers and leaders will need to understand where AI is strategically best positioned in the organisation and how it can bring new business value or even introduce new business models.

Similarly, technical teams will need to build and maintain these solutions including managing the data that is so essential to building reliable AI solutions.

The future of the finance function, as depicted in the report, hinges on its ability to evolve, adapt, and embrace new technologies.

Furthermore, by addressing issues related to stress, feeling undervalued, and the desire for more strategic roles, CFOs can ensure that their teams are not just surviving, but thriving in this new era of finance.

 

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