2023 is going to be a challenging year for CFOs. Rising inflation (and interest rates), labor shortages and workplace transformations, continued supply chain complications, and increasingly complex and controversial external reporting requirements are all just a few of the major obstacles facing organizations in the new year. With so many issues at the doorstep and mixed indicators adding to the confusion, one could make the argument that 2023 will be even tougher than the recent years. Finance & Accounting leaders will undoubtedly need help, particularly from technology experts.
IT teams have been heavily transformed by the digital transformation age. Operations, finance & accounting, recruiting, marketing, external reporting, customer relationship management… all rely on innovative technological solutions to provide organizations with a competitive edge. IT leaders, specifically CIOs, must now be at the forefront of collaborative efforts across the organization to meet the challenges each function is facing. A strong(er) partnership between the offices of CFO and CIO will be critical to successfully navigating the difficult year(s) ahead. Below are specific considerations this partnership must explore to tackle the before-mentioned obstacles.
Increase Planning Capabilities to Strategically Combat Inflation and Rates Increases
Both inflation and interest rates are expected to experience increased volatility for the foreseeable future. Nothing can hamper growth like inflationary expenses and increasing debt obligations. Organizations absolutely need the ability to budget and forecast with agility and scalability to ensure the negative impacts are minimized. If the COVID era has taught us anything, it’s that efficiency and speed in strategic planning is a must in uncertain times. And it’s hard to believe (given the explosion and advancement of Planning software in recent times), but we still see improving budgeting and forecasting strategies listed as a top priority for CFOs according to a Gartner Survey of +150 CFOs.
Partnership between technology and finance leaders within the organization is critical to the process of improving Planning capabilities. CIOs can play a critical role in rising to this challenge by focusing efforts on using their expertise to pinpoint the best Planning solutions AND partners to garner improvements. Whether the organization is looking to implement a new solution or expand current applications, identifying specific areas for improvement takes teamwork from CFOs and CIOs. Below are a few areas that should be included in the discussions:
- Forecast modelling solutions to better analyze fast-changing business scenarios affects on long-range plans
- Optimization of operational planning processes by utilizing best-practice pre-built solutions
- Partnering with sales, product and supply chain managers to strengthen the overall budgeting and forecasting cycles
- Enhance the analysts’ ability and flexibility to manage profitability and cost models, as well as allocations
- Adoption/expansion of AI and data science within the planning process to empower analysts
Focus Technology Improvements on Key Tools to Recruit and Retain Talent
The talent shortage experienced over the past couple of years is re-balancing…. or getting worse, depending on what you’re reading. What this really means is that the dynamics affecting the labor market are not stable. And retaining or recruiting great talent will be a major goal for the foreseeable future. But the challenge for organizations is how do they differentiate themselves from competitors outside of pay and benefits? One answer lies in how job seekers envision their workplace experience and the work-life balance. Antiquated technology, unnecessarily complex (i.e. custom) and disjointed business processes, and over-reliance on manual intervention are all red flags to talented finance, accounting, and IT analysts. Organizations plagued by these issues will struggle to instill interest & confidence from both potential and existing associates as these all contribute to frustration and longer hours for analysts.
To eliminate the frustration and instill an engaging environment for colleagues, CFOs and CIOs should focus on addressing the following “talent busters”.
- Reduce manual-intensive repetitive processes within the quarter-end cycle, especially in the area of recurring journal entries and reconciliations
- Streamline data management integrations by focusing on solutions to speed the synchronization of both metadata and financial data
- Invest in formal training for key stakeholders. Consider developing a training roadmap for both business and IT analysts.
- Focus on technological solutions which provide modern collaboration features
Target External Reporting Enhancements
Scrutiny by external regulators and investors is increasing dynamically. New SEC rules, ESG, and the FTX fallout are bringing new pressures to organizations in with an influx of new reporting requirements. CFO offices are highly likely to struggle to keep up, which could (and most often does) lead to heavy reliance on manual efforts to meet new requirements. Additionally, one can only imaging the affect this expansion will inflict on audits fees. To combat this, CFOs and CIOs need to start identifying the key data elements, key people, and the key solutions to help meet the future of external reporting. Solutions needs to center the following considerations.
- Invest in an external assessment of the processes and tools being used to produce external reports
- Control the narrative with solutions that provide cutting edge narrative functionality
- Mitigate reporting and audit costs by primarily focusing on solutions which center on configuration to produce standardized external reporting, rather than custom coding or Excel
- Use sophisticated workflow and task management solutions to ensure all information is captured, prepared, and reviewed in a timely fashion
CFOs and CIOs face an uphill climb in 2023. Even the best managed and technology-focused organizations will be impacted. Leaders who embrace the suggestions above will see their organization in a much better position at the end of 2023, than those who don’t.
Have thoughts in addition to above? Feel free to comment!