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Finance leaders must shift their focus to data, report finds

By Catherine Knowles, 12 Aug 2021

The vast majority (89%) of finance leaders know they have the choice to simply watch the finance function be automated out of existence, or seize the opportunity to change and take on a new and crucial role in the business.

This is the key finding of the new Resurgent Finance Leader global research report, completed on behalf of Board International by independent research organisation Vanson Bourne.

The report highlights how the vast majority (90%) of finance leaders agree its time to accelerate the change from being a scorekeeper to performance driver. In fact, 91% agree that finance is the natural hub for data - the most strategic asset of the digital age and one that holds many opportunities for business growth.

The report finds that more than a third (36%) of finance decision-makers believe fundamental transformation of the finance function is needed to survive.

At present, almost a quarter (23%) focus most of their time and resources leading the future of finance, and one third (33%) on becoming a digital champion.

However, the report shows there remains a substantial number (18%) of finance leaders, almost one in five, who admit they still spend most of their time and resources on fixing the basics.

Furthermore, just under half (47%) of all global finance leaders surveyed are totally confident in their office of finances capability to capture valuable insights which drive business decisions and profitability.

The report also identifies that 62% of finance leaders don't believe current finance reporting enables them to accurately project performance and adapt forecasts in real-time to reflect changing market conditions.

Highlighting the need for change, the report finds that the majority of finance leaders (81%) believe how their office of finance uses technology to influence business decision-making and drive strategy needs a complete overhaul or a lot of improvement.

Of those surveyed, the vast majority (94%) of global finance decision-makers both believe their organisations executive leadership are willing to completely rethink traditional finance roles and responsibilities.

Further reassurance is taken from the fact that the same proportion (94%) believe their executive leaders are willing to support the office of finance, to become more strategic and accelerate the digital enterprise by enabling the function to become the hub of data.

Finally, the report shows how finance decision-makers believe this organisational readiness to support the transformation of finance, needs to be reflected in the wider workforce, skills and culture.

Just under half (44%) of all finance leaders surveyed are totally confident their organisation has the right technical skills and talent within the business to ensure technology is driving better business decisions, and a huge majority (92%) of senior finance decision-makers worldwide believe that company culture should encourage the finance team to be creative, curious, and rebellious, allowing them to think quickly and constantly challenge the status quo.

Board International VP professional services Karlo Bustos says, “The Resurgent Finance Leader report from Board shows finance leaders worldwide know now is the time for the office of finance to make the transformational leap to become the strategic hub for driving more value from their data.

"Yet more time and resources are being spent distracted by fixing the basics, clearly resulting in less opportunity for more innovative and strategic time investments elsewhere, and not all finance leaders are completely convinced their office of finance is entirely ready to drive business decisions, profitability and performance."

Bustos says, “Finance decision-makers know they have the backing of their organisation's leaders, who are ready to embrace their finance team as a key player, when it comes to supporting business goals.

"Despite this endorsement from executive leaders, this latest Board research shows there are still gaps to fill when it comes to utilising the right technology, skills and culture to empower the office of finance to take further strides to becoming a performance driver rather than just a support function."

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