Eight-two percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) report that their investments in digital are accelerating, exceeding investments in other areas such as talent, supply chain, business services or fixed assets. But the challenge continues to be how to turn investments for both the enterprise and finance function into digital wins for the organization.
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Gartner surveys looking to 2022 show that CFOs, controllers and heads of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) are all focused on digital initiatives that will lay critical groundwork for an autonomous future — one in which finance operations are increasingly driven by hyperautomation, artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing, reducing the need for human intervention.
“Making the right digital investments used to get CFOs extra credit,” says Alexander Bant, Chief of Research for CFOs at Gartner. “In 2022, successful digital transformation will become the baseline for even, solid performance for all finance leaders.”
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Critical finance strategy shifts for digital success
Many CFOs are still exploring the uses of technology innovations and how they can benefit their business and function operations. Several initiatives appeared among the top priorities that you expect will take more time and be difficult to achieve in 2022.
No. 1: Budget for speed and relevance
The global pandemic continues to accelerate the need to build flexibility, agility and strategic thinking into planning, budgeting and forecasting activities. Uncertainty, volatility and changing business needs are expected to become more of a norm than an exception, and budgets must increasingly allow for greater in-year resource flexibility to respond to change quickly and effectively.
No. 2: Build digital competencies
Developing digital skills is a prerequisite for finance leaders as organizations — and the finance function itself — accelerate adoption of digital technologies in anticipation of a postpandemic recovery. The first step is to identify relevant digital skills, especially those specific to employees’ daily workflows.
No. 3: Drive enterprise digital growth
Act less like a passive reviewer of digital investment proposals and more like an activist. This starts with teaching technology leaders exactly how digitalization drives business and financial outcomes and how to prioritize funding toward initiatives that move the dial on critical business metrics.
Goals of controllers and heads of FP&A align with those of CFOs
Controllers and heads of FP&A also expect to spend significantly more time in 2022 on gaining critical digital ground. It makes sense given you are being challenged by continued business disruptions and are still under pressure to adopt advanced analytics and technologies.
Controllers also look to support the overall transformation of the finance function. Many are interested in delivery models like shared services and business unit centers of excellence to drive efficiency and automation. The functioning of teams is also a concern, with the vast majority of controllers (75%) saying they expect to spend the time on developing digital skills in 2022.
Among the time-consuming but challenging initiatives high on the FP&A agenda is building scenarios into planning (82%) and updating financial models to reflect business realities (76%). Improving the ability to plan effectively amid continued uncertainty involves creating more flexibility in plans and budgets to be able to respond to unexpected disruptions or opportunities.