In brief

In brief

  • CFOs are grappling with several challenges: enterprise-level adoption of automation, leveraging analytics and connecting with other business units.
  • Many CFOs are struggling to capture data. They will need support from the organization as they look toward life after automation.
  • CFOs will unlock greater insights and become even more essential only after measuring and translating digital interventions for the rest of the C-suite.

As CFOs anchor themselves in an increasingly volatile landscape, they will face a series of operational and cultural challenges. At a tactical level, CFOs will need to implement processes to combat lingering pushback to automation within their organizations and ensure they leverage all the data at their disposal. Once the technologies are in place, however, they will need to continue to build the case for change and position themselves as a transformative force across the enterprise.


of CFOs are eager to embrace new digital skills that will be critical for keeping up and succeeding in the years to come.

Overcoming cultural constraints

Not all CFOs have the power to enact initiatives like automated financial systems and digitalization. Today, only 34% of finance tasks are automated — a surprisingly low rate. Even more alarming? CFOs anticipate that less than 50% of all finance tasks will be performed by machines by 2021.

So what’s holding CFOs back? Apprehension is one reason — 38% of those we surveyed are worried about employee resistance to working with non-human colleagues. This puts the onus of automation on CFOs as they juggle their current responsibilities.

"Finance should be all over anything tied to enterprise technology – right from the design phase. Any technology in the back office needs to interface with finance efficiently. Otherwise your data and outputs are a mess."


Getting a grip on data

CFOs are looking to leverage data proactively so they can help decision makers craft a more insights-driven strategy.

But so far, 53% of CFOs worry that the finance function is reactive or that data and information-sharing processes aren’t streamlined. What’s more, 46% expect to still feel this way in two years’ time.

Capturing crucial data is also a concern. Of the finance leaders surveyed, less than half are capturing key potential benefits of data analysis:

  • Value creation
  • Improved compliance
  • Identification of future risks and opportunities
  • Wider technology adoption throughout the business
  • Increased connectivity with other areas of the enterprise
"One of the biggest challenges is locating the right data. That’s what keeps me awake at night."


Inspiring the enterprise

Some 64% of the CFOs surveyed are concerned about being out of sync with the rest of their company given the challenges they face pushing forward with digital transformation. These finance executives will have to take action to reassure themselves they are on the right long-term track. The following steps can help ensure CFOs automate operations at the appropriate pace and turn any potential employee resistance to enthusiasm.

Identify test cases

Look across the organization for “quick win” opportunities to prioritize digital investments.

Connect with other departments

Find common ground across business functions and use agile methods to optimize digital throughout the organization.

Actively monitor investments

Conduct ongoing evaluations of the portfolio of digital investments to ensure their continued relevance and value.

Support innovators

Create an environment that enables risk-taking and encourage teams that are proactively pursuing innovation.

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Embracing their transformative role

CFOs from high-growth firms are more likely to be driving transformation, planning disruption and targeting value. They are also more likely than others to say their data and analytics capabilities are strong, and that they are implementing real-time or near-real-time monitoring of business performance.

Technology itself won’t lead to improvement, of course.

So how can CFOs embrace their new, transformative role among the C-suite? By crafting clear end goals to ensure that new technologies are fully exploited and connecting the dots between pilot programs and technologies to avoid redundancy. In doing so, both CFOs and their team can become strategic enablers for both the entire organization and future finance talent.

About the Authors

Steve Culp

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Enterprise Value, Finance and Risk

Dr. Christian Campagna

Senior Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, CFO and Enterprise Value

David Axson

Senior Strategy Executive Principal – Accenture CFO Strategies and CFO and Enterprise Value

Haralds Robeznieks

Senior Principal – Accenture Research


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