CFOs risk losing relevance and global competitiveness if they do not embrace technology, says ACCA

Chief financial officers (CFOs) have an unprecedented opportunity as core contributors to the adoption of new technologies to drive business growth. However if they don’t embrace this opportunity, they risk losing competitiveness and remaining relevant amid a fast-moving digital landscape, according to a new report by ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants).

The report, Race for relevance: technology opportunities for the finance function, is the first in a series of reports and articles focusing on technology in finance. It explores the opportunities and challenges that technology presents for the future CFO function in the face of extraordinary digital change impacting businesses. The report shares insights from leading executives across the world on the technologies changing the face of the finance function, and examines how finance can harness the explosion in digital capabilities to help drive business success.

You can read the report here.

'CFOs need to appreciate that there are significant opportunities to be gained from the use of technology in finance. They need to develop a roadmap that enables them to recognise the short-term benefits and the longer-term gains,' said Maggie McGhee, director of professional insights at ACCA. 'They need to accept that with these technologies it is often better to fail fast and be able to move on, rather than to not try at all. The core elements of people, processes, technology and data thread through any activity.  Addressing each of these within an organisational culture that supports innovation and creativity is important for harnessing emerging technologies.'

The ACCA members interviewed for this research urged CFOs to build a coherent and logical program for technology adoption – which ACCA calls six imperatives for success:

  • Align the strategy: Understand the organization’s wider goals and how finance, using technology, can best support these ambitions.
  • Build the business case: Identify the business case for using specific tools and solutions.
  • Appreciate the value of data: Explore how CFOs can make better use of data and analytics throughout finance and beyond.
  • Managing the organizational impact of technological change: Identify the organizational change required to embed new technologies successfully.
  • Focus on talent and skills: Equip the organization with the people and skills base needed to exploit the technology.
  • Assess the impact of technology on governance and risk management: Ensure that investments are made with rigor and that the risks created by new technologies are properly monitored and controlled.

Collectively, these technologies enable enhanced finance processes, support the communication of information both internally and externally, provide protection for information assets, and look to the future while building upon existing technologies.

'Whatever the size of the business, technology change is having an impact. In this corporate race for future relevance, recognising the opportunity is essential,' McGhee says. 'The revolution has started and adaptation is critical. Adopting new technology needs to be a high priority for finance.'

However, ACCA cautioned that CFOs who fail to take advantage of the opportunities could be removed from the strategic decision-making process and marginalised at the leadership table. CFOs and finance leaders must understand how technology can enable them to transform the finance function through the provision of brilliant, timely insights for business stakeholders to support real-time decision making in addition to its existing stewardship and reporting roles.

CFOs need to consider the impact of key technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), cloud, analytics, social media, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence on finance. To achieve the goal of transforming the finance function, the CFO must understand the emerging technologies, how these relate to the wider use of technology in the organisation and appreciate the opportunities available.

'CFOs who embrace new tools and technologies have a huge opportunity to put finance at the centre of their enterprise’s value creation,' McGhee says. 'Failure to do so will risk the future value that finance can achieve.'

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About ACCA

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) is the global body for professional accountants, offering business-relevant, first-choice qualifications to people of application, ability and ambition around the world who seek a rewarding career in accountancy, finance and management. 

ACCA supports its 200,000 members and 486,000 students in 180 countries, helping them to develop successful careers in accounting and business, with the skills required by employers. ACCA works through a network of 101 offices and centres and more than 7,200 Approved Employers worldwide, who provide high standards of employee learning and development. Through its public interest remit, ACCA promotes appropriate regulation of accounting and conducts relevant research to ensure accountancy continues to grow in reputation and influence.

ACCA is currently introducing major innovations to its flagship qualification to ensure its members and future members continue to be the most valued, up to date and sought-after accountancy professionals globally. 

Founded in 1904, ACCA has consistently held unique core values: opportunity, diversity, innovation, integrity and accountability

"CFOs who embrace new tools and technologies have a huge opportunity to put finance at the centre of their enterprise’s value creation"

Maggie McGhee - Director of Professional Insights, ACCA