COVID-19 brought forth a forceful awakening to organisations that their digital capabilities are lacking. Based on a global survey of 173 CFOs conducted by Gartner, it was clear that they have an alarming list of digital priorities to consider for 2021.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has forced CFOs to abruptly assess both their organizations’ and functions’ current digital capabilities, and they have clearly found many areas lacking,” said Alexander Bant, chief of research in the Gartner Finance practice.
CFOs are tasked with a heavy burden — from overlooking the successful implementation of advanced data analytics and robotic process automation (RPA) technologies, to ensuring that their teams are equipped with the necessary digital skills. Moreover, the survey had shown that most of the CFOs had doubts about meeting their immediate digital objectives for the coming year.
Gartner’s survey shows that among the digital priorities for CFOs, the top three areas for greater investment of time were all also followed by high levels of doubt, with half or more expecting it to be difficult to meet their top digital goals (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Top CFO Digital Priorities
Source: Gartner, November 2020
Of those surveyed, 82% identified advanced data analytics technologies and tools to be a top priority. This is accompanied by 78% of them foreseeing difficulties in successfully meeting this priority in the coming year.
While it is important to oversee a successful digital transformation of their organisation, CFOs would also need to look at identifying investments that will reap positive business outcomes and improve employee performance within new hybrid working models. They will need to rethink how they evaluate business performance in this environment, while also encouraging new business models that support digital growth.
To start off, Bant suggested looking into the use of RPA to free up member time on repeatable and transactional tasks. “Most CFOs have by now conducted small-scale experiments in either RPA, artificial intelligence (AI) or advanced analytics technologies, and they have seen the potential for significant ROI,” he said. “Now the key will be achieving scale with these technologies while ensuring that CFOs have the talent in place to run an always-on, fully digital business.”