Often considered the most traditional role in a company, the CFO function now faces changing requirements and expectations from external and internal stakeholders created by digitalization: there are new opportunities, different ways of working, and unique business challenges. Today’s CFO function must be able to drive digital transformation and actively contribute to the change of an organization. Digital readiness helps companies ensure business continuity in challenging business and market situations.

To understand where European companies stand in the digital transformation of the CFO function, BearingPoint conducted a CFO 4.0 survey directed at CFOs and finance managers around Europe. Finland was one of the six countries where the survey was conducted, alongside Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland. The study sheds light on the technology CFO functions are using and the actions they are taking and plan to take to get the most out of digitalization.

CFO 4.0 study in brief

BearingPoint’s CFO 4.0 Study assessed the digital transformation of the CFO function around Europe. The study aimed to provide insights into the current state of digitalization in the CFO function and to broaden the understanding of how CFOs can create value more efficiently through innovative and streamlined processes using disruptive technologies in different business conditions.

The study includes research from Austria, Finland, France, Ireland, Germany, and Switzerland. 163 CFOs and finance managers from 7 industry sectors took part in the survey, in which they evaluated the CFO function’s digital maturity in their organization. The survey was conducted in fall 2019.

The research framework

To illustrate the digital maturity level of the CFO function in a company, the study considers digitalization as an accelerator of change that impacts business in three waves. 

1. Operational efficiency

Improving the day-to-day work through process streamlining and automation

2. Business partnering & finance target operating model

Providing financial insights for the business using real-time data and self-service visualization tools

3. Business transformation

Reinventing value chains and offering, supporting and driving the transformation

The analysis was done at the country and industry level and from a digital foundation point of view. The digital foundation consists of strategy, organization, people, technology, and data perspectives, all equally essential elements in the digital transformation of the finance function. Responses were reviewed from telecommunications, technology, financial services, the public sector, manufacturing, retail, energy, chemical, and oil and gas industries.

CFO 4.0 study results

The below dashboard allows you to filter and view the main results of the study by industry and country.

Key findings

According to the study, CFO functions around Europe understand the strategic impact of digitalization, but the current levels of digital maturity remain underdeveloped in all the countries surveyed. Only 9% of the companies surveyed have positioned themselves to the wave of business transformation, whereas 41% still focus on operational efficiency improvements of the first wave of digitalization. The average digital maturity level of European companies is 4.9 out of 10, which suggests that companies are still halfway from the ideal CFO function. Ideally, the CFO function should be flexible, service-oriented, and focused on supporting and working closely with other business functions.

Digitalization initiatives are even more important when business conditions change. The study shows that only 12% of finance professionals use their time on value-adding services, making it more challenging to adapt to uncertainty and new business requests. The ability to seize opportunities fast and simplify processes is crucial so that the CFO function can support the business and create new business models as efficiently as possible.

Country-comparison 

Country-specific results highlight that there are no major regional differences in the future vision or perceived CFO practices in pursuing digitalization. However, some countries surveyed have implemented a broad set of technologies, while others have a narrower focus or are looking to catch up. Also, some countries are more focused on operational efficiency improvements of the first wave of digitalization, while others have already started to move toward supporting thorough business transformation of the third wave of digitalization.

Digital foundation

The research findings indicate that the biggest threats to successful digitalization are linked to culture, strategy, and people. Too many priorities and the lack of a clear strategy and vision are the most significant challenges preventing successful digital transformation within the CFO function. The majority of the study respondents believed that the performance of the CFO function could be improved if employees were willing to experiment, take risks, and work in distributed teams.

Industry-comparison

The industry-comparison shows that the digitalization of the CFO function has started to transform practices at some level in each of the industries included in the analysis. However, the special characteristics of each industry, such as regulations and lifecycles, affect the phase of digital transformation. The study finds that the telecommunications industry has the highest digital maturity level. Digitalization has been considered in their CFO strategy and companies in the industry are the most confident in the readiness and capabilities of employees and leadership to execute digital transformation. The overall digital maturity levels of the analyzed industries are presented in the infograph below.

Technology-related findings

  • From a technology perspective, the telecommunication industry has the highest proportion of companies positioned in the ideal digitalized CFO function (22%).
  • The technology industry has the most skillful employees in terms of digitalization and is the earliest adopter of new digital tools, whereas the manufacturing industry is the most willing to invest more in these technologies (86%).

Strategy-related findings

  • When moving to the strategy dimension, both financial services (FS) and the public sector have been able to make digitalization a part of the CFO function despite being highly regulated.
  • The FS industry has the greatest number of companies (15%) in the third wave of digitalization, focusing on thorough business transformation.
  • People-related findings 

  • From a people point of view, retail has the highest uncertainty regarding the readiness to leverage digital trends. But it has the most faith in the skills and experience of leadership to lead the digitalization process.
  • Approximately 25% of respondents from the energy, chemicals, and oil and gas industries consider the digitalization initiatives of the CFO function to have no primary owner. The result is clearly higher than the industry-average (9%), making it more difficult to prioritize strategic actions.

 

 

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