The vast majority of chief financial officers say worsening macroeconomic conditions will have no effect on planned digital transformation projects in their departments. But the demand for skilled workers to mine insight from new data streams has left senior finance leaders embroiled in a war for talent that is keeping them awake at night.
New research from Tradeshift — in partnership with CFO Dive — reveals the set of challenges financial leaders face as they grapple with an expanding role and a set of strategic responsibilities that were until recently outside the scope of the finance department. In one highlight from the research, almost half of CFOs (45%) said that talent acquisition and retention was their chief worry for the rest of the year and beyond. Other top concerns included the increased cost of goods and services (42%) and technology adoption (39%).
The research also discovered significant tension in CFOs’ attitudes toward their departments’ technology strategy. While respondents generally felt positive about their recent tech investments, well over half (59%) conceded they would have taken a different approach if they’d been able to predict the events of the last few years. This tension illustrates how CFOs — as with other senior leaders — are coming to terms with the sudden evolution of their roles and responsibilities brought about by the seismic events of the last few years.
“The disruption of the last few years has put the evolution of the CFO role into overdrive, and they are now grappling with an expanding range of strategic responsibilities,” said Mikkel Hippe Brun, co-founder and general manager, payment automation, at Tradeshift. “Finance leaders recognise the decisive role technology has to play in helping them address an increasing array business-strategic challenges, from supply chain risk mitigation, through to ESG. They also recognise that any investment they make in technology requires an equal investment in human talent capable of extracting value from new data sets.”
Other key CFO concerns for the rest of the year and beyond revealed through the research include:
- Enterprises are lagging on onboarding the latest technology to help their departments do their jobs better and more efficiently. Only a third (35%) of CFOs reported that their latest tech projects had reached the implementation stage or beyond, with the majority still in the planning or proof-of-concept stage.
- The vast majority of CFOs plan to increase budgets allocated to digital transformation projects within their department. More than one in three respondents (36%) said they planned to increase tech expenditure by more than 26%, with one in five CFOs reporting increases above 50%. Just 6% of respondents planned to reduce investments in new tech.
- CFOs say they think they’ve done an excellent job in general, but moving from efficiency to value creation is key. Nearly all CFOs (93%) were at least satisfied with their companies’ finance function, with over a third (38%) calling it outstanding. Despite this, 49% of CFOs rated providing a more detailed vision of business cash and liquidity and 41% rated automation of processes using intelligent automation as high priority areas for new tech investment.
- CFOs say they feel their teams can handle tomorrow’s challenges but worry they aren’t meeting the moment right now. While the vast majority (88%) of CFOs said they felt strongly or somewhat confident that their current team could deliver to meet evolving business demands, over a third (37%) also said they lacked the internal expertise to properly analyze their financial data.
- CFOs lack the resources necessary to help their teams do their jobs better. For their teams to improve today, CFOs acknowledged they would need better data integration (56%), better training (48%) and more advanced technology (42%).
- Future-proofing the financial function will require three key skills. To survive the future, CFOs said they anticipated needing technical finance expertise (59%), followed by data and technology savviness (50%) and corporate strategy expertise (38%).
- Investment in technology is essential, but … CFOs placed a high priority on several technology investments, but they also conceded that their companies’ primary concerns regarding the adoption of new technology were many, including cost of implementation (46%), ease of integration with an existing technical stack (41%), and training or hiring employees who could make the best use of the technology (38%).
- CFOs struggle to juggle shifting priorities. The largest number of CFOs (28%) said they spent too much time on what has traditionally been a quintessential element of the job — finance function capabilities — while the largest number (35%) also said they spent too little time on talent development.
As their role continues to evolve, CFOs will likely find themselves shifting between old and new priorities to find the right balance. For more on how they’re using technology to meet emerging challenges head-on and to help elevate the office of finance, read the complete survey report, Building for Change: How CFOs’ Priorities Are Shifting From Efficiency to Creating Long-Term Value.
Tradeshift and CFO Dive conducted an online survey of CFOs, vice presidents of finance and chief accounting officers, among other financial leaders. The survey was conducted from July 13 to Aug. 3, 2022, across 150 respondents. Qualified survey participants were senior finance professionals at companies with over $100 million in global revenues. Fielding was conducted on the Verint Survey Platform. Demographics are available upon request.
Tradeshift is a market leader in e-invoicing and accounts payable automation and an innovator in B2B marketplaces and providing access to supplier financing. Its cloud-based platform helps buyers and suppliers digitize invoice processing, automate accounts payable workflows and scale quickly. Headquartered in San Francisco, Tradeshift’s vision is to connect every company in the world, creating economic opportunity for all. Today, the Tradeshift Network is home to a rapidly growing community of buyers and sellers operating in more than 190 countries. Find out more at: Tradeshift.com.