Pandemic expands CFO responsibilities, sharpens focus on tech

04 November 2020 3 min. read
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CFO and finance executives are facing more responsibilities and demands from stakeholders as the pandemic continues to stress organizations, according to Protiviti’s annual Finance Trends Survey. The business consulting firm surveyed more than 1,000 finance leaders globally in July and August.

The survey found that the pandemic has focused the attention of finance departments on cloud infrastructure, as many companies transition to a remote and fragmented work environment. Indeed, 72% of finance leaders ranked cloud-based applications as a top priority area over the next 12 months. Seventeen percent of CFOs and finance VPs ranked cloud-based applications as the most important finance priority – more than double the 8% who tagged it as a top priority in 2019.

"Covid-19 disruptions underscored the critical nature of a truly digital finance workforce and companies without advanced technologies and digital processes faced a difficult transition to remote work,” said Chris Wright, a managing director at Protiviti. “We're now seeing an increasing number of boards and CEOs tap their finance leaders for guidance about whether their organization is allocating enough resources to their technology infrastructure."

The survey also found that CFOs are embracing a “future” labor model for their departments, utilizing a blend of internal staff with external experts to perform finance activities. Finance departments are increasing outsourcing processes to managed services providers, with 18% relying on managed services providers and 29% using staff augmentation.Top 10 Overall Priorities - CFO VP Finance

"As organizations face unprecedented disruption, we are seeing finance departments increasingly turn to external partners to help deploy advanced technologies and provide in-depth expertise to meet the growing needs of their internal stakeholders amid a challenging and often disconnected environment," said Wright.

As finance executives stare down the “new normal,” the survey found a distinct technological accent to their top areas for finance organizations to improve. The top five CFO priorities were security and privacy of data (80%), enhanced data and analytics (78%), changing demands and expectations of internal customers (74%), cloud based applications (72%), and regulatory challenges (72%).

The Protiviti report offered four tips for CFOs. The first was to clarify their long-term role in cybersecurity, analyzing how security spending is benchmarked, allocated, and how risks are quantified in dollar terms.

The second tip is to embrace the CFO’s higher level accountability, as stakeholders’ desire for finance and performance insights has soared in recent months and years. CFOs should seek to satisfy various departments’ need for real-time data and analysis.

Third, finance leaders should aim to support the foundational elements of digital transformation – including data quality and governance, analytics, workflow, and collaboration – with sufficient funding and improvements.

Last, CFOs should opt for a flexible finance labor model which can deploy – as needed – full-time, contract, temporary, and outsourced providers that can deliver agility during the ongoing disruption of the pandemic.