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Workday survey explores the impact of COVID-19 on finance and the lack of data insights

By Ryan Morris-Reade, 30 Jul 2021

Workday has announced its chief financial officer survey results, exploring the impacts of COVID-19 on the finance function, CFOs digital investment plans, and the role of data. 

The survey found data management and analysis have been the most significant area of concern for CFOs throughout the pandemic. And that the lack of data insights challenged organisations to make informed, fast decisions in the face of ongoing uncertainty.

One year after many organisations were forced to remotely close the books for the first time due to stay-at-home orders for employees, Workday surveyed more than 260 global CFOs to gain insight into the challenges faced during the pandemic. The study also looked at how they are adapting their digital finance strategy to better prepare for future change.

The survey showed only 19% of CFOs have automated nearly all their finance processes and are currently handling financial reporting digitally. With most organisations in the midst of digital transformation, CFOs also reported gaps in their data, ultimately affecting performance over the past year. 

According to 28% of CFOs, the lack of data to make critical business decisions impacted product launches, with 24% citing missed financial forecasts and 17% citing misaligned resource investments.

Some key survey findings include:

  • Execution during COVID-19 was significantly impacted due to a lack of accurate data. Nearly half of CFOs (49%) say their organisations biggest gap over the past year was the ability to execute with accurate, timely data, driving 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 say they made the most progress over the past 12 months, closing the data gap by prioritising intelligent data foundations 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 AI and machine learning solutions to address digital finance transformation.
  • Beyond technology investments, environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) and diversity and inclusion (D&I) are emerging as business priorities. ESG (29%) and D&I issues (26%) are listed as emerging topics that businesses focus 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,” says Workday Accounting, Tax, and Treasury senior VP, Barbara Larson. 

“And the real gap CFOs identified was not just data but timely, decision-ready data. With Workday, organisations 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,” she adds.

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