Automation has the potential to fast-track CFOs’ digital transformation efforts, putting them on a path to unveiling faster, higher-quality insights. Yet, a failure to automate the right things or a lack of technology savvy can end up derailing progress.
We surveyed 160 CFOs on the current state of automation in FP&A today, exploring what they see as their key drivers and barriers to adoption and how automation is changing the skillsets they want in their teams. The survey reveals that CFOs are not only moving full steam ahead with automation, but also view automation as critical to putting themselves and their teams on track to becoming more strategic and agile.
Today, financial reporting and period-end variance reporting top the list of automated processes, while dashboarding/scorecards and planning/forecasting top the list for planned automation over the next 18 months. And CFOs will also look to artificial intelligence (AI) in the future, with 89% saying AI will impact the FP&A function in the next five years.
The shift to automation is also expected to impact team skillsets. Whereas two years ago, 78% of CFOs saw Excel as the most important skill for their FP&A teams, only 5% see that as the most important skill today. And better Excel skills ranked last for new hire skills this quarter. Instead, CFOs rated the ability to be adaptable to new technologies as the top skill for new hires, signaling a shift in desired skillsets for finance professionals in the future.
Limitations with manual processes like spreadsheets were recently documented in a Wall Street Journal article, “Stop Using Excel, Finance Chiefs Tell Staff.” The article noted that the ubiquitous spreadsheet software that revolutionized accounting in the 1980s hasn’t kept up with the demands of contemporary corporate finance units, citing a lack of automation.
Without question, CFOs view automation as a requirement to address the rising volume and complexity of data, while delivering the insights and agility needed to seamlessly guide the business through an often-volatile economic climate. To that end, their top three initiatives for 2018 are to create and/or refine their visual analytics reporting, upgrade technology, and develop professional skills.
Check out our infographic below for more information on how automation will impact the future of business planning. Download the CFO Indicator Q4 2017 report for more insights, survey results, and charts.