CFO role expands amid pandemic, according to survey

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CFO role expands amid pandemic, according to survey

By Marianne Wilson - 10/26/2020

Finance leaders are increasingly looked to for guidance on how to allocate digital resources and staff as companies navigate today’s remote environment.

That’s according to a survey of more than 1,000 finance leaders by global consulting firm Protiviti, which revealed that CFOs and senior finance executives are facing a growing list of responsibilities and demands as the pandemic has stress-tested the finance labor model in real time.

Protiviti’s annual Finance Trends Survey found that the pandemic has served as a wake-up call to finance departments that were not already investing – or not investing enough – in cloud infrastructure as they struggled to shift to the remote and fragmented work environment. Of those respondents who are CFOs and VPs of finance, 72% ranked cloud-based applications as a top priority to address over the next 12 months, and 17% ranked cloud-based applications as the most important finance priority for their organizations to address – a jump from 8% of respondents who indicated so in the 2019 survey. 

Survey respondents were asked to rate 17 finance areas on a 10-point scale, considering the importance to improve knowledge and capabilities in each of them over the next 12 months. Of those, the top five priority areas for finance organizations to improve were identified as the following:

  1. Security and privacy of data 
  2. Enhance data analytics 
  3. Changing demands and expectations of internal customers 
  4. Cloud-based applications 
  5. Challenges with regulations

“Having the right technology infrastructure and cloud capabilities is now considered a baseline in order to operate effectively and efficiently and will continue to be as organizations move into a hybrid work environment," said Chris Wright, a managing director and global leader of the firm's business performance improvement practice. "COVID-19 disruptions underscored the critical nature of a truly digital finance workforce and companies without advanced technologies and digital processes faced a difficult transition to remote work. We're now seeing an increasing number of boards and CEOs tap their finance leaders for guidance about whether their organization is allocating enough resources to their technology infrastructure."

In addition, the survey identifies a shift toward CFOs embracing a new 'future labor model,' leveraging a blend of internal staff with external experts and services to better perform various finance activities. CFOs are increasingly outsourcing processes to managed services providers in order to equip their finance departments with the resources they need to be nimble and meet their growing responsibilities.

According to CFOs and vice presidents of finance who participated in the survey, 18% of their finance organizations are relying on managed services providers and 29% are leveraging staff augmentation to support greater speed and agility for financial planning and analysis. 

The Protiviti survey report, titled "Finance Priorities in the COVID Era: Digital Dominance and Flexible Labor Models," is based on a survey of 1,057 finance leaders worldwide, including CFOs, VPs of finance, directors and managers at both public and private companies across a range of industries.

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