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Gartner details the five 'digital competencies' CFOs must wield in 2021

Thu 21 Jan 2021

CFOs must leverage five key digital competencies if they are to realise the full potential of their recent technology investments, according to Gartner.

Technological literacy, digital translation, digital learning, digital bias management and digital ambition form the five pillars of competencies for finance staff in 2021, the analyst firm declared — and advancing the emerging technologies of robotic process automation (RPA), advanced AI and more hinge on achieving them.

“CFOs are leaning into the ‘digital mandate’ and are investing heavily in next-generation technologies,” says Gartner chief of research for finance practice Alexander Bant.

“However, they must remember that digital transformation is a two-part equation involving not only the technologies themselves, but also ensuring they have the staff who know how, when, where and why to leverage these new technologies.”

Here are the details for each of Gartner’s five key digital competencies for CFOs in 2021:

Technological literacy

CFOs must strive towards a better understanding of how to wield digital technology to drive better organisational outcomes.

Gartner says this competency is critical to deriving value from advanced analytics, machine learning, AI and other emerging technologies. 

Technological literacy among finance staff ensures that new technologies will be put to use to contribute to real business value and support future business growth.

Digital translation

This represents the ability to explain how digital technologies interact with finance stakeholders, processes and systems. 

It is central to building business partnerships, with effective digital translators able to serve as a conduit between business partners and digital experts to ensure that digital technologies deliver insights that are relevant and can be acted on by business partners.

Digital learning

This competency revolves around meeting the new digital learning requirements necessitated by the trove of new digital environments. 

Old models of training relying on manager-led sessions at set intervals are no longer viable in such environments, Gartner says, and finance employees themselves must move to quickly adapt to new technologies and incorporate them into the current stack.

Digital bias management

With the spectre of harmful bias looming in the world of machine learning, finance personnel must cultivate the ability to both detect and articulate such biases as they come across them.

This competency is vital for improving ML models, monitoring data quality and increasing stakeholder trust in these technologies. Finance teams with digital bias management competencies have a higher awareness for flawed results generated by ML and can better mitigate and prevent them.

Digital ambition

This competency represents a willingness to embrace new technologies and new ways of working. Finance employees should have a proactive mindset and desire to continually build their digital skillset. Those who successfully wield this competency have an authentic interest in how new technologies can improve their work and business outcomes. 

“CFOs tell us that it is a struggle to secure just one of these competencies, let alone all five among their teams,” continues Bant.

“However, the majority of these competencies are trainable and can serve as building blocks for a better return on finance technology investments.”

Gartner’s report is derived from a survey of 173 global CFOs in November of last year, where researchers found that substantial digital investments topped CFOs’ agendas in 2021.

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