CFOs have hastened digital transformation in response to the coronavirus and rank cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) at the top of the list for information technology investment through 2024, according to a Gartner survey.
Financial executives are also focusing on advanced data analytics, data storage and robotic process automation, while putting less emphasis on artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain/Internet of Things (IoT), Gartner found in a survey of 167 corporate finance organizations in North America, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific.
Cloud ERP "is a maturing technology with clearly established benefits that offer an escape from the bloated ‘monolithic' ERP systems of yesteryear," Dan Garvey, vice president in Gartner's finance practice, said in a statement.
CFOs this year will likely spend more on IT than ever before in response to forecasts that vaccinations will push back COVID-19 and clear the way for strong economic growth.
IT spending worldwide will surge 6.2% this year, to a record $3.92 trillion, as CFOs expedite their pre-pandemic plans for digital transformation by at least five years, according to Gartner.
"Digital investment and transformation are no longer things that CFOs can take a ‘wait and see' approach on or throw small investments at," Garvey said. "The time is now, and CFOs need to act swiftly."
Compared with cloud ERP and other IT, AI and blockchain pose bigger implementation challenges while lacking a similar prospect for return on investment, Gartner said.
"Many cloud ERP and advanced analytics offerings are increasingly offering embedded AI capabilities, and that neatly solves many challenges around integration and in-house expertise," Garvey said. "There's no doubting the potential of building your own AI, but is the finance organization capable of realizing that potential?"
Similarly, blockchain has potential but currently "out-of-the-box use cases are also limited and not applicable to most of the work that the finance organization conducts," Gartner said.