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What Will Finance Focus on in 2023?

February 27, 2023

Contributor: Jordan Turner

These are the top 5 strategic initiatives finance leaders are prioritizing.

Finance leaders continue the mission toward autonomous finance in 2023 and beyond, especially as the economy sours. “Lessons learned from prior downturns show that industry leaders accelerate in downturns by boldly investing in initiatives that matter,” says Alexander Bant, Chief of Research for CFOs at Gartner. “Right now, those investment decisions are all about digital — transforming to deliver augmented real time and predictive insights, effortless compliance and greater flexibility in finance strategy.” 

Download now: The Top Finance Trends and Priorities For 2023

The top 5 priorities for finance in 2023

To help finance leaders better manage and lead during these times, Gartner conducted an annual survey and identified the top 5 priorities for finance in 2023. Top of the list is leading finance transformation, but many finance leaders will also prioritize finance technology and human-centric work. This will prepare the organization for economic volatility, while at the same time, allow for new opportunities to increase profitability.

Priority No. 1: Lead finance transformation and organizational change initiatives

Finance’s mandate is expanding, and the pressure to play offense into a recession is mounting. With a large number of competing business priorities, effort to control costs, ongoing technology initiatives and multiple options for service delivery models, CFOs must invest in finance transformation, AI and autonomous digital projects that make the finance organization faster and leaner. And to do so, they must define the right priorities and people for said transformation. 

Priority No. 2: Develop and refine the data and analytics strategy

By 2025 50% of FP&A leaders will have enterprisewide data strategy as a key responsibility. As more finance teams build up their capacity for D&A, finance leaders must increase their role in enterprise D&A governance, and strengthen their understanding of the underlying D&A concepts or be left at the mercy of IT to fulfill their D&A strategy. In 2023, finance leaders must get familiar with key D&A concepts required to start or advance critical finance transformation initiatives, and create a D&A strategy that meets the needs of a modern and forward-looking organization.

Priority No. 3: Align spend to growth

Disruption is the new status quo. In this environment, sound planning for how a company will deploy its economic capital is no longer enough. CFOs must add “capital activism” to their more traditional attempts to streamline capital allocation processes. Capital activism takes postures embraced by the most productive activist investors and private equity firms and applies them to the internal management of capital through CFOs and their teams. Capital activism requires senior finance leaders and finance business partners to actively direct capital flows to respond to changes in enterprise value drivers.

Priority No. 4: Build a more human employer-employee relationship

Shifts in today’s work and business environments have altered employee expectations and how leaders must approach their core responsibilities. To succeed in this new world of work, finance leaders must pull employees together, rebuild cohesion and push forward in new directions. However, they cannot achieve this while applying the principles of the past. Eighty-two percent of employees say it is important that their organization sees them as a person, not just an employee.

To deliver on these new employee expectations, finance leaders must work with their HR partners to reinvent the employee value proposition (EVP) and create a culture that is more human, one that understands what it means to be human and uses that knowledge to unlock the potential of its people. 

Priority No. 5: Set finance’s technology strategy and roadmap

In response to constant disruption, the vast majority of CFOs are relying on technology investments to expedite transformation. In the 2022 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey, 92% of CFOs indicated they plan to increase investment in technology, up from 70% in 2021.

Though technology investments are increasing, data shows only 30% of technology projects succeed. The existing complex and siloed legacy technology portfolios make it difficult for finance teams to decide what technology to prioritize and which capabilities to invest in. 

CFOs must set a composable finance technology strategy and roadmap, which is a modern and effective approach to assess and plan a technology portfolio. It helps finance evolve its technology landscape into an ecosystem of modular, composable application building blocks that enable a more agile and business-centric finance organization.

In short:

  • Finance leaders continue to face an unprecedented amount of disruption.

  • In an annual survey, Gartner identified finance leader’s top 5 priorities for 2023.

  • At the top of their list is leading finance transformation efforts, but many finance leaders will also prioritize change management, technology strategy and the employee experience.

Alexander Bant is the Chief of Research for CFOs at Gartner, where his business insights are used by 45,000 leaders at a majority of the Global 500. His research teams quantify and share what the top companies and their leaders do differently to maximize their people, processes, and technology.

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