Finance goes digital: Why financial leaders are driving business strategy
CFOs and finance leaders are embracing technologies such as automation, AI and cloud, and using them to enable their changing role within the business.
This is according to Gerhard Hartman, VP: Medium Business at Sage Africa & Middle East, who was speaking during a webinar on the digital finance future last week.
Hartman said Sage’s research – CFO 3.0: Digital Transformation Beyond Financial Management – revealed that the role of CFOs had evolved significantly, with 90% of them playing a key role in their organisation’s digital strategy and 15% of them fully responsible for digital transformation.
The study found that CFOs are already using AI and automation to give themselves more time for strategic thinking. 89% of CFOs said they welcome automation performing more of their day-to-day accounting tasks in future, and 40% believe that AI and machine learning will improve forecasting and financial planning even further. The modern CFO is developing accounting, analytical, business, and strategic-thinking skills and learning more about technology to support their new mandate.
We now see the CFO taking an active role in overall digital transformation and strategic direction, in close collaboration with the CEO and CIO.
“The research was eye-opening,” said Hartman. “The perception was always that CFOs were the guardians of the company cheque book, but the research shows there has been a radical shift to senior financial decision makers becoming more strategic in their organisations. While the CFO has always collaborated within the C-suite, we now see the CFO taking an active role in overall digital transformation and strategic direction, in close collaboration with the CEO and CIO. They are becoming more vital for executing strategy.”
Finance teams need the right tools to execute on strategy, he added, and the CFOs are looking to understand more about technologies. "They won’t take over the role of the CIO, but they will be instrumental in helping to bring in the technology and making sure it’s sustainable.”
Sage notes that CFOs who embrace technology will have an easier time of leading through uncertainty and driving digital transformation.
A poll of webinar participants found that in their organisations, digital transformation was led by the CIO (42%), the CEO (17%) and the CFO (20%), with the COO (2%) or someone else (14%) driving strategy. This echoes the research findings that the CFO’s role is increasingly important in digital transformation that supports business strategy.