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STAMFORD, CT, November 12, 2020

Gartner CFO Survey Reveals A Dramatic Digital Acceleration Since COVID-19

CFOs Plan to Greatly Increase Their Time Spent on Implementing Digital Investments, with the Majority Uncertain of Success

A Gartner, Inc. survey of 173 CFOs in October 2020 highlighted a daunting list of digital priorities for 2021, from the implementation of advanced data analytics and robotic process automation (RPA) technologies to accelerating digital skills among their teams. The survey also revealed that most CFOs were not confident in successfully meeting their highest priority digital objectives for the coming year.

“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. “Next year will be about accelerating digital investment timelines from the pace of a multi-year marathon to a 12 month sprint. However, most CFOs aren’t sure they will successfully cross the finish line in many of these areas.”

Gartner’s survey asked CFOs where they will spend more time in 2021 compared to 2020, and where they anticipate difficulties in achieving their goals. Among digital priorities, the top three areas for greater investment of time were all also accompanied by significant levels of doubt among CFOs, with half or more expecting it to be difficult to achieve their top digital goals (see Figure 1).

While 82% of respondents indicated that advanced data analytics technologies and tools were a top priority, nearly as many, 78%, expected it to be difficult to successfully achieve their goals in this area next year. 

Figure 1: Top CFO Digital Priorities

SOURCE: Gartner, November 2020

“Digital Must-Dos” for CFOs in 2021

Many CFOs are seeking to revive stalled growth investments while optimizing costs to better reflect new business realities. Chief among these realities are meeting new customer preferences shaped by the pandemic, including greater expectancy for speed, multichannel delivery and always-on availability.

 “CFOs face dual demands in funding the broader digital enterprise, while also ensuring their own function is equipped with the tools, technologies and talent for successful transformation,” said Mr. Bant. “Fortunately, many digital priorities, such as RPA, should also be supportive of CFOs’ cost optimization goals, at least long-term.”

CFOs should put a primary focus on identifying the investments that will drive positive business outcomes and enhance employee performance within new hybrid working models. CFOs will need to reassess how to measure business performance in this environment while also encouraging new business models that support digital growth.

Top Digital Priorities Come from Within Finance

Mr. Bant suggested accelerating the use of RPA to free up team member time on repeatable and transactional tasks. Advanced digital analytics technologies can help finance organizations deliver insights at scale and create long-term competitive advantages. Attracting the digitally savvy finance talent required to maximize value from analytics and automation may be more feasible in light of a newly open and remotely available global talent pool.  

 “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,” Mr. Bant 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.”

Gartner clients can register for the upcoming webinar Position Finance to Enable Digital Transformation.

Non clients can visit: Prepare Finance for Digitalization. 

CFOs and finance leaders can participate in Gartner research and get complementary access by joining the Gartner Research Circle.

About the Gartner Finance Practice

The Gartner Finance practice helps senior finance executives meet their top priorities. Gartner offers a unique breadth and depth of content to support clients’ individual success and deliver on key initiatives that cut across finance functions to drive business impact. Learn more at https://www.gartner.com/en/finance/finance-leaders.

About Gartner

Gartner, Inc. (NYSE: IT) is the world’s leading research and advisory company and a member of the S&P 500. We equip business leaders with indispensable insights, advice and tools to achieve their mission-critical priorities today and build the successful organizations of tomorrow.

Our unmatched combination of expert-led, practitioner-sourced and data-driven research steers clients toward the right decisions on the issues that matter most. We are a trusted advisor and an objective resource for more than 14,000 enterprises in more than 100 countries — across all major functions, in every industry and enterprise size.

To learn more about how we help decision makers fuel the future of business, visit gartner.com.

Contacts

Justin Lavelle 
Gartner
Tel +1 571 230 0816
justin.lavelle@gartner.com 

Rob van der Meulen
Gartner
Tel +44 1784 267 892
rob.vandermeulen@gartner.com