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Prioritising talent optimisation and technology in finance

In today's fast-paced business landscape, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) face numerous challenges; from navigating an ever-changing economic landscape to redefining their workforces to leveraging digital enablement and artificial intelligence. As key decision-makers, they play a crucial role in driving business strategy and performance and act as the “Chief Insights Officer”. Fortunately, new technologies and a wealth of data provide CFOs with the tools they need to tackle these challenges head-on.

Despite ongoing uncertainties, a recent global study by The CFO Alliance shows optimism among CFOs and their continued investment in skills and technology. The study, developed in collaboration with Workday, reveals CFOs are overwhelmingly confident their businesses will achieve revenue and margin targets this year, and a significant majority are planning double-digit spending increases to drive growth.

To thrive as a CFO and deliver on the expectations of their stakeholders, CFOs need to be more of everything; with fewer resources and hands on deck, there’s less time, and a shorter runway. It is no wonder the study noted that “most CFOs are too busy and severely undercapitalised”. As a result, CFOs are increasingly burning out even in the face of good performance and a positive outlook. As a result, more CFOs are saying: “If I am staying, we need to do things differently in 2023.”

2023 has indeed become a year of level-setting by CFOs. Along with their CEOs, investors, and Boards, they are shifting their focus from talent acquisition to talent optimisation by upskilling their people and investing in the right digital capability. The study also found 38% of CFOs are prioritising budget increases for improving skills and capabilities, up from 34% a year earlier. Undoubtedly, by adopting a talent optimisation approach, CFOs can maximise the effectiveness of their employees throughout their lifecycle with the company. This involves investing in technologies and processes that consolidate people, business, and talent data into a single platform for accessibility and analysis. A data-driven approach like this allows CFOs to work with employees to improve and expand their skills, enhancing employee engagement and reducing turnover costs.

The study reveals that over 50% of CFOs are rebalancing their priorities and redesigning the CFO role and finance function to drive better outcomes and value. They are upskilling their finance workforce, fostering collaboration, adapting to remote work preferences, and creating a more resilient and integrated finance function.

According to the researchers, CFOs are transforming the finance function into a more resilient and integrated function that better navigates the ongoing volatile and uncertain environment by:

●    Redesigning the work they and their finance teams do by applying technology to drive better outcomes and value
●    Matching critical skills to the work that needs to be done by their finance teams
●    Rigorously upskilling the finance workforce and engaging them in new ways of working
●    Proactively strengthening culture by meeting their finance team's needs for collaboration, adapting physical and remote preferences, and contributing to a more consistent work environment.

Furthermore, to fulfil the role of “Chief Insights Officer”, every CFO needs a team with the skills, knowledge, and expertise required to thrive in the digital age, with a combination of technical skills, creative thinking, and adaptability to effectively navigate and leverage digital technologies, tools, and platforms.

With data, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) poised to revolutionise the delivery of finance, it is unsurprising to see other capability gaps identified by the survey respondents relating to technology. CFOs identified data synthesis / critical thinking skills, tech enablement /automation skills, and new technology training limitations as among the greatest skill gaps relative to their needs in 2023.

AI and data-driven technologies are key enablers to finance teams, for example identifying potential anomaly detection in expense reports, and eliminating inefficiencies by reviewing significant transactional volumes. One of the significant benefits of AI and ML in finance is the acceleration of decision-making processes by using ML algorithms which can analyse vast amounts of data in real-time, enabling finance professionals to make informed decisions quickly. This not only speeds up the decision-making process but also reduces the time required to close books, eliminating manual process toil.

AI and ML can also automate the processing of supplier invoices, reducing manual efforts and errors, and analyse historical data to provide intelligent recommendations for work tags, improving efficiency and accuracy.

Ultimately, AI and ML empowers the finance function to become a strategic enabler for the entire business.

By continuing to invest in skills and technology, CFOs will position themselves and their organisations for success in an ever-changing world. By embracing a holistic approach to talent optimisation and leveraging data-driven technologies, CFOs can ensure that their finance teams are equipped to meet today's challenges and tomorrow's opportunities.

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