While technology has become a key element in many businesses, automation of the finance function remains behind the curve.

Millions of people are now working in a more hybrid fashion, with elements of remote home working becoming the norm. But many finance departments have not been as quick to automate their processes, and still rely on office-based transactions in order to continue business as usual.

Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are often seen as resistant to, even wary of, new technology in the finance function. This view however is changing, as finance leaders increasingly recognise the importance of technology, and that the role of CFO is shifting beyond its traditional financial confines.

CFOs now need to boost their data science skills. According to a dummy Harvard Business Review Analytic Services paper reported by Forbes: “The challenge is no longer gathering data, but what to do with the vast amount of information flowing into the business 24/7.

“‘Technology can now help CFOs turn real-time data into insights that drive process improvements, which in turn ensures compliance and boosts employee and customer satisfaction.”

CFOs must recognise the importance of technology skills

Our dummy Finance Leader of Tomorrow  survey found that the need for CFOs to get to grips with new technologies is seen as a key priority.

Respondents noted that ‘understanding new technologies’ such as analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and modelling, are areas where CFOs should have top technical skills. This demand was larger than either compliance or risk management, which are often key concerns for the finance function.

CFOs are recognising that investment in technology is critical. The survey showed that 22% of CFOs think that investing in new technology would be their highest focus area across their business.

While this interest shows CFOs moving in a positive direction, there is also clearly a disconnect between the importance of understanding technology and what is actually happening.

In our survey, 72% of respondents felt their role was becoming more dependent on technology, which was positively impacting their business. However, while some finance leaders claim to have a good understanding of technology, a third (31%) admit that they are lacking in confidence.

Likewise, only 36% of large businesses strongly agreed that they fully understand the technologies in their business, a figure which falls to 16% for SMEs. This is where current challenges lie for a number of CFOs.

/H2/ CFOs need to make the leap

If technology is to be more widely adopted and implemented across the finance function, it is imperative that CFOs not only understand the technology they are using, but also get to grips with emerging technology such as AI and machine learning when building their ongoing finance strategy.

The consensus among CFOs is that global and economic events are demonstrating the further value of digital transformation, both within the finance function and for the wider business.

While there is no suggestion that CFOs should be technology experts, the rate of technological change means tech skills must remain a key area of learning, even for those who consider themselves knowledgeable.

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