Data management and analysis was the biggest area of concern for chief financial officers throughout the pandemic and the lack of data insights challenged organisations to make informed and fast decisions in the ongoing uncertainty, according to a CFO survey conducted by Workday.
The survey tackles the impacts of COVID-19 on the finance function, CFOs’ digital investment plans, and the role of data.
“The Workday CFO survey highlights the impact of the pandemic on the finance function, and there is no doubt it has caused many businesses to re-think their systems and processes. But in ANZ, CFOs are still eager to modernise and move their systems to the cloud, and the pandemic hasn't slowed this down," explains Workday Australia managing director and vice president Stephen Jack.
“Almost a fifth of the global survey CFO participants were from Australia and New Zealand,” adds Jack. “Many of them are Workday clients, whose finance leaders are consistent in identifying data management and advanced analytics as a priority.”
Jack says customers are realising the benefits of moving to the cloud.
“Even lockdowns are not slowing CFO’s recognition that there is no better time to do so. Almost two thirds of our clients are moving their finance operations to the cloud and investing in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) solutions,” Jack says. “Workday is seeing a new impetus to pursue that strategy in the post-pandemic era.”
In March 2021, one year after many organisations were forced to remotely close in the meantime due to stay-at-home orders for employees, Workday surveyed more than 260 global CFOs to better understand the challenges they faced during the pandemic.
The survey studied at how they are adapting their finance digital strategy to better prepare for future change.
The survey findings showed that only 19% of CFOs have automated nearly all their finance processes and are currently handling financial reporting digitally. With the majority of organisations in the midst of digital transformation, CFOs also reported gaps in their data, which affected their performance last year.
The lack of data to make critical business decisions impacted product launches, according to 28% of CFOs, with 24% citing missed financial forecasts, and 17% citing misaligned resource investments.
Additionally, the key highlights of the survey show:
● Execution during COVID-19 was affected due to lack of accurate data. Nearly half of CFOs (49%) say their organisation’s biggest gap over the past year was the ability to execute with accurate and timely data that drives quick and informed decisions.
● As a result, over the past year CFOs prioritised investments to close the data gap. When looking at investments, 50% of CFOs made the most progress over the past 12 months closing the data gap by prioritising intelligent data foundations (creating a single source of truth for finance, worker, and operational data) and advanced analytics for better decision making.
● Looking ahead, CFOs are prioritising cloud and machine learning investments over the next one to three years. Nearly two-thirds of CFOs (60%) are investing in reimagining finance operations in the cloud and deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions to address finance digital transformation.
● Beyond technology investments, environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) as well as diversity and inclusion (D&I) are emerging as business priorities. ESG (29%) and D&I issues (26%) are listed as the emerging topics that businesses are most focused on prioritising beyond technology—ranking higher than cybersecurity and cryptocurrency.
"It's clear that a lack of insights during the pandemic resulted in missed opportunities for companies to drive top and bottom line growth across a variety of areas," concludes Workday senior vice president accounting, tax, and treasury Barbara Larson.
“And the real gap CFOs identified was not just data—but timely, decision-ready data. With Workday, organizations can adopt a cloud-first intelligent data platform that brings financial, people, and operational information together in a single system. This not only fills the gaps but provides the foundation required to help deliver actionable insights and competitive advantage,” Larson says.