Posted by Robert Half on 08 April 2016
Quite simply, the finance function is changing. In recent years, new technologies have emerged allowing the finance function to adopt the automation of processes. New technological innovations have completely transformed internal finance operations and as a result, are changing the nature of the finance function of the future.
Research in our report Finance 2020: closer than you think shares the changing priorities faced by CFOs over the coming years and the increasing importance being placed on’ keeping up with the pace of changing technology’. Our research also demonstrates that while firms are confident in their ability to digitise their finance function, they still face challenges in other areas, including the lack of skilled professionals.
Where and why are finance leaders investing in technology?
The digitisation of finance is no longer a novelty, but a necessity in order for businesses to remain competitive. Companies are incorporating technology into their operations to enhance internal processes and increase efficiencies within both their finance function, but also the wider business.
Data analytics is a priority for many finance leaders as businesses evaluate their quantitative and qualitative data to seek out opportunities to gain competitive advantages. Fraud detection is the second highest on the list, followed by compliance and regulation. As the finance function has moved away from solely ‘processing the numbers’ to being a strategic partner to the businesses, investing in technology is facilitating the ability to provide real-time insights.
Implementing effective data analytics and similar digital finance initiatives teamed with skilled experts’ means businesses can provide a targeted, tailored and relevant service. As industries embrace technology, competition is only increasing. Businesses are therefore investing in technology to help streamline processes and provide a platform to engage with business partners, vendors, suppliers and other third parties.
Is there a struggle to implement these initiatives?
But of course, one issue company’s face is technology limitations that are restricting them from implementing such initiatives. Another setback finance leaders are struggling to overcome is organisation and/or operating models. Executive leadership is inhibiting progress, with many of the key decision makers placing different levels of importance on embracing digital technologies. At a time where IT innovation is leading the way in improving processes, businesses who are reticent to switch to a new technology could be left behind.
After overcoming internal struggles within the business, finance leaders are also encountering an issue finding professionals with the right skills. Accounting and finance professionals will play a key role in identifying growth opportunities and cost efficiencies that will ultimately lead to advantages. Businesses, however, are struggling to attract skilled interim and permanent accounting and finance professionals as supply now outweighs demand.
The latest generation of finance and accounting experts are growing up in a competitive and digital world. But with digitisation initiatives planned in the short-term, there is a realisation amongst finance leaders that specialist professionals are key to making the most of their investment. With the skills shortage in this area, many businesses are turning to interim professionals for their best-practice advice in preparing their finance function for the future.
*The above article has been updated to reflect our latest research and report findings.