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Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and the finance organisations they lead have yet to fully exploit emerging technologies to better support the business, says a new report from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
The report, Is finance function technology delivering on its promise? gauged in-depth views from finance executives across a spectrum of businesses, including Shell, Aviva, Kimberly-Clark, Deloitte, Accenture and others. It suggests the finance organisation is not using technology to its full potential and, in turn, could be missing out on bringing more value to the enterprise.
Jamie Lyon, head of Corporate Sector at ACCA, said: “The problem is not necessarily that technology isn’t available, but there are many reasons why finance has not yet reached tech nirvana.
The reality is for most finance functions the technology landscape is still complex and fragmented with multiple ERP, continuing work-arounds and bolt on applications. But this report suggests there are bigger issues too. It is about behaviours, vision and culture in the finance function to go that step further and really push for technological change.”
He adds: “Of course it isn’t true to say that finance technology has been standing still for the past ten years. Leading companies have deployed technology to improve finance service delivery to the business, but the primary focus has really been around cost, efficiency and quality in transactional finance, and driving standardisation and improving controls.
“However, concepts such as self-service finance, or eliminating the need for people in transactional finance processes through greater technology deployment, continue to prove elusive. We’d also question whether there is a greater opportunity for business process outsourcers to bring more finance technology innovation to bear.”
The report suggests the real opportunity CFOs have is to champion the adoption of transformative technology and predictive capability tools to support decision making. However, for all the aspirations that finance may have around the value and insight agenda, this remains a work in progress for most.
Deborah Kops, principal at Sourcing Change and co-author of the report, said: “Finance can, through technology, eliminate its preoccupation with processes. Harnessing technologies that mine data for patterns means the function can become a game changer for business. Finance leaders have tended to rely on their technology colleagues rather than members of their own teams to plan their technology ‘roadmaps.’
“The chief information officer’s team is either consumed with implementing the latest version of ERP, or with identifying and installing the newest customer-facing social and mobile technology that isn’t really touching finance. This means the technology needs for finance get little attention when it could transform the function for the better.
“We should also acknowledge that the application of technology has the potential to change further what a finance career means. If technology increasingly automates transactional finance and is also able to mine insights at the same time, it will change what it means to be a finance professional as well as the capabilities needed.”