Gartner Top Priorities for Finance Leaders in 2020

CFOs in 2020 will focus on finance analytics, finance organization strategy and structure, and finance technology optimization.

Growing the business will be the top enterprise-level business objective in 2020, along with improving operational excellence and executing business transformation, according to finance leaders responding to the Gartner 2020 Agenda Poll. As CFOs and finance leaders look to support these corporate ambitions, the survey shows their top three key initiatives in 2020 will be:

  • Finance analytics
  • Finance organization strategy and structure
  • Finance technology optimization  

“These priorities result from three key challenges CFOs must overcome,” said Randeep Rathindran, Vice President, Gartner. “Reports and analyses have insufficient forward-looking information, finance organization structure limits responsiveness to changing business needs and technology investments — not just those in finance — have long payback periods for realizing their return on investment (ROI).”

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Finance analytics

Despite the significant 50% increase in the share of finance spend on analytics in the past three years, few finance organizations have attained a high-enough level of maturity to implement advanced analytics. Not only is it hard to assess the impact or ROI of finance’s advanced analytics projects, but current operating models prevent effective utilization of advanced analytics resources. 

Leaders pursuing advanced analytics should first consider pilots rather than large, technology-led analytic investments. Identify a list of advanced analytics projects, connected to business problems, that have an available financial or nonfinancial dataset. As individual projects demonstrate success, larger advanced analytics projects can be pursued with confidence.

Finance organization strategy and structure

Digitalization, matrixed decision making and new service delivery models are changing what companies expect from finance. Finance teams face pressure to keep up or risk damaging their credibility and influence with business decision makers. 

Successful CFOs understand where and how to employ strategies that take advantage of these trends, and how to structure finance to make the most of tight budgets. Progressive leaders break down organizational structures that limit the advantages of a digital finance function, pay close attention to reduce duplication of effort and aim to provide coordinated support to the business.

Read more: How to Organize Your Finance Function 

Finance technology optimization 

Finance technology optimization means extracting more value from accounting and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems while adopting digital technologies to improve finance processes. Finance’s technology literacy is still nascent, leading to an expensive dependence on the IT function and external vendors. 

As a result, finance technology implementations take too long. Seventy-six percent of CFOs report lagging ROI from technology investments due to long implementation. Slow adoption is a key challenge, but only 24% of CFOs are confident in their ability to solve the problem. In the meantime, slow adoption rates of emerging technology continue to undermine the function’s effectiveness.

New technologies, such as robotics, promise capabilities that can significantly improve the ability of finance to deliver actionable, real-time business intelligence and capture process efficiencies that haven’t been possible previously. To capture the benefits, CFOs must be able to identify the potential and justify the costs of new solutions in a tangible way.

Learn more: CFO top priorities

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients. Gartner for Finance Leader clients can read more in Advanced Analytics in Finance, State of the Finance Function and What The Digital Era Means for Finance Leaders.

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