- Efforts by CFOs to reach a state of “autonomous finance” within the next three to six years will require significant reshaping of finance team structures, with 40% of finance roles to be completely new or reshaped by 2025, recent research from Gartner found.
- Of the headcount growth to take place by 2025, over 80% will be in new subfunctions, and not in traditional accounting and financial planning and analysis roles, according to the research.
- There may be a new style of leadership needed to support these new roles as well. “Expertise in traditional finance topics, while valuable, does not prepare leaders to train staff to execute on capabilities, such as deploying bots, machine learning, and AI algorithms,” said Shannon Cole, senior director analyst of research at Gartner.
The rise of digitalization in business operations and the growing availability of new technologies has both proven to increase efficiency within the finance function as well as shown why a new form of leadership — an operating or “wartime” CFO — is needed to charge the process.
“CFOs that effectively lead and navigate transformation will add roles to their leadership team to address analytics and decision support, finance IT and global process ownership,” said Cole in a statement.
The goal of “autonomous finance” refers to the idea of organizations being able to deliver finance capabilities through “processes and activities that are partly governed, and majority operated by self-learning software agents that optimize front-, middle- and back-office operations,” according to Gartner.
“Mindset is the hardest barrier to overcome in achieving autonomous finance — followed by talent (or expertise),” said Cole in an emailed response to questions.
The role of the CFO has been changing drastically in recent years, with their responsibilities especially creeping into technology and IT-related spending.
Both inflation and labor market shortages have pressured CFOs to justify labor-based models, the survey said, with such economic headwinds pushing organizations away from the growth-at-all-costs mindset.
“As more finance resources are directed towards digital transformation, it becomes apparent there is a need for deep process expertise, and for project management offices to provide governance and coordinate these initiatives,” Cole said in the statement.
Meanwhile, technology spending can offer much “greater reliability and efficiency for scalability than the labor-based method traditionally used to deliver finance capabilities,” the research found.
By 2025, over 30% of finance roles will be aligned “horizontally”, a major shift from the current organizational structures that are in place at companies today, according to Cole.
“Currently, most enterprises have traditional organization structures that were designed for the industrial era. They are designed for efficiency in a production or manufacturing context and are organized “vertically” in functional silos such as finance, product development, and IT,” she wrote to CFO Dive.
This structure is in direct contrast to the digital era, which is characterized by collaboration, data-orientation and disruption, “so we see businesses adapting to ad hoc, agile and cross-functional work groups to achieve better alignment and responsiveness to customer and market signals,” wrote Cole.