Despite the push for adopting new tech, CFOs are less than confident in their staff's ability to command them, a November survey of 173 global CFOs by Gartner found.
As a result of this mismatch between new tech and the fluency to use it effectively, finance teams will fail to realize the full value of their investments, Gartner said.
- "Digital transformation is a two-part equation involving not only the technologies themselves, but also ensuring they have the staff who know how, when, where and why to leverage these new technologies," Alexander Bant, the Gartner Finance practice's chief of research, said.
The most successful teams that see the largest ROI from their tech are the ones who exhibit basic competencies, Bant said.
"The CFO's responsibility is to build a diverse and well-rounded team that embraces and leverages tech at a rapid pace," he said. "The CFOs themselves should know enough about the technologies to bring in people that can drive the right strategies."
A separate survey from November found CFOs' plans for substantial digital investments topped their 2021 agendas. But without improving digital competencies, they'll likely struggle to fully benefit from a range of incoming investments including advanced analytics, robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence.
Gartner analysts sorted through 50 digital competencies and assessed them according to three criteria.
The first criteria was newness: the extent to which these are genuinely new competencies. The second was staying power, or how relevant they are to practical finance needs. The third was applicability, or the extent to which a digital competency relates to finance specifically.
Gartner identified top five digital competencies for CFOs and their teams to focus on:
Tech literacy — Knowing how to use technology to drive better outcomes for finance and the business. That's key to deriving value from the technologies — advanced analytics, machine learning, AI — that CFOs will invest in this year.
Digital translation — The ability to explain how digital technologies interact with finance stakeholders, processes and systems. This helps connect problems in the business with the highest-value digital solutions. Staff with the right skills can serve as a conduit between business partners and digital experts, like data scientists, to ensure the tech delivers relevant and actionable insights.
Digital learning — The ability to meet new digital learning requirements within new environments quickly. Old models of training relying on manager-led sessions at set intervals. Those are no longer viable in an environment driven by constant change, so finance staff must take ownership of their learning, Bant said.
Digital bias management — Detecting and articulating bias in machine learning, and managing the associated risks. That allows for improving models, monitoring data quality and increasing stakeholder trust in the new tech. Finance teams with digital bias management competencies are more aware of flawed results generated by machine learning, which lets them better prevent them.
Digital ambition — A willingness to embrace new technologies and new ways of working. Digitally ambitious finance staff have "a proactive mindset and desire to constantly build their digital skillset," Gartner said.
Bant advises CFOs to set a clear connection between their finance transformation strategy and how digital investments support their overall outcomes.
"CFOs tell us it's a struggle to secure just one of these competencies, let alone all five among their teams," Bant said. "However, the majority of these competencies are trainable and can serve as building blocks for a better return on finance technology investments."