The CFO function, often considered as the most traditional function of any company, faces new requirements set by digitalisation: new opportunities, new ways of working and new challenges for businesses. To remain competitive and have capacity to adapt to sudden business and market changes, the CFO function must be able to drive its own digital transformation and strongly contribute to the change of the whole organisation.
BearingPoint conducted in Autumn 2019 a firm-wide survey directed to CFOs and finance managers of medium and large European corporations in Germany, France, Finland, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria. 163 CFOs and finance managers from 7 industry sectors took part in the survey. Digitalisation was analysed at a country-level, industry-level and from a digital foundation point of view. The digital foundation includes strategy, organisation, people, technology and data as all elements are considered equally important in the digital transformation of the CFO function.
The CFO 4.0 study aims to provide insights into the current state of the CFO functions’ digitalisation around Europe 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 ideal digital maturity level of the CFO function is characterised by digital technologies and capabilities that improve processes, performance and drive new value generating business models. BearingPoint’s study reveals that only 11% of Irish companies reach this level, the so-called third wave of digitalization, in their CFO function. Digitally mature companies recognise the value of digital innovations and have included those into their strategy. They also aim to utilise data more efficiently in decision-making processes and to have a technology-driven culture.
According to the research, 56% of the Irish financial professionals surveyed spend most of their time and effort in running core finance-processes as opposed to providing value-added services. However, 72% of Irish participants expect to invest more in technology so that financial resources can be utilised more strategically, focusing less time on historical reporting and more time on value-add activities such as driving insights from data analysis.
Whilst we have seen improvements in Irish CFO functions, inefficiency in process, technologies and organisational design mean Irish CFOs are spending a significant amount of time on running core activities of the CFO function, instead of providing value-added services. There needs to a greater focus on applying new innovative ways of working along with the aligned methodologies and techniques for continuous improvement into their Finance functions where CFOs are thinking more like the innovators. Think automation, design sprints, innovation, technology efficiency, sustainability, etc.
Eric Conway, Managing Partner, BearingPoint Ireland
The research findings indicate that one-third of the respondents in Ireland are not confident in their CFO function’s readiness to respond to and leverage digital trends. The main barriers to responding to digital trends are insufficient skills and experience, competing priorities, lack of clear strategy and vision, unsuitable current IT landscape and the significant investment required.
According to the survey, 50% of respondents in Ireland believe that they do not have sufficient skills and experience to execute their organisation’s digital transformation. The ability to understand and leverage new technologies will be thus a key differentiator in future.
The biggest challenge facing Finance functions both today and in the future is talent acquisition and retention. As the role of the Finance function shifts from financial accounting and reporting toward more forward-looking analytics, technology-related skill sets will increasingly be required. This will require investment in employee capabilities that have not been traditionally associated with finance functions.
Martin Deere, Head of Finance & Risk at BearingPoint Ireland
CFO 4.0 Study Finance Leaders in Ireland – Key highlights