Top trends and priorities for CFOs and Finance Directors

24 September 2019 5 min. read
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A new Protiviti survey of over 800 finance professionals – chief finance officers, vice presidents of finance, finance directors, controllers and other finance professionals – at both public and private companies from around the world has identified the top priorities of finance departments. 

Security and privacy of data

Not surprisingly, security and privacy of data is atop the list of priorities for CFOs and finance leaders. This is, according to the researchers, understandable, because they see what is going on in the market and read about security issues and challenges in the media. Continued reports of data breaches, involving the loss of millions of records, severe financial loss and significant operational impact, have undoubtedly put finance teams on notice that the data they maintain must be secured and managed properly.

Unlike other financial-related risks and controls, finance leaders rely on others – IT and security teams – to articulate and implement specific controls and protections for data governance and cyber risk.

Enhanced data analytics

Data is everywhere, and typically, finance sits on the largest bulk of data. By applying analytics to data, finance can take great strides in improving strategic decisions and enhancing the internal operations. With risk analytics, finance can increase trustworthiness and security of the company. With forensic analytics, finance can bolster tracking of fraud and other forms of financial crime. By unleashing analytics on finance business processes, operational efficiencies can be uncovered. And by adopting analytics on regulatory data-sets, compliance to reporting demands among other requirements can be simplified.Top 10 overall prioritites for CFOs / VPs Finance

Process improvement

Improving the foundations of finance – processes and governance – remains a top three priority for finance professionals. This includes improving the processes underpinning billing and credit, accounts payable and receivable, payroll, internal accounting, expense management, capital expenditure, treasury management, compliance and working capital management. 

Changing demands and expectations of internal customers

Growing demands from the business means that CFOs and finance executives are more determined than ever to exceed the increasing expectations of internal customers. They realise that failing to address the needs of internal customers could result in a failure to meet the business's strategic objectives. In doing so, they are aiming to embrace and espouse a more strategic mindset and operating model. 

Embracing new technologies

Finance professionals acknowledge that embracing advanced technologies is key to advance both effectiveness and efficiency. Many finance organisations are migrating from enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and related applications to a cloud model. And finance is more focused on robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (Al), blockchain, predictive analytics, cloud-based applications and other advanced technologies. 

Internal controls

Remaining in control of the business is a core part of finance’s remit, and to this end the function has a plethora of internal controls installed across business functions and (cross-functional) processes. From digital transformation and cloud migration to customer service, the finance organisation needs a controls mindset to build out these capabilities effectively.Top finance priorities by functionCFOs and finance leaders are well aware of the need to sustain an unwavering focus on strong internal controls. This attention is crucial to apply to data management activities given that the value of the finance organisation's analyses hinges on the quality (and protection) of the data used to produce its forward-looking insights. 

Financial planning and analysis

While finance organisations always need to monitor and improve their accounting-focused processes and cycles – such as the period-end close, external financial reporting, procure-to-pay and order-to-cash – internal customers are clamouring for more, sharper and more forward-looking financial insights to strengthen their strategic decision-making. This explains why profitability reporting and analysis capabilities are high on the finance agenda, and why more CFOs and finance leaders point to competitive intelligence as a rising priority. 

Profitability reporting and analysis

CFOs and finance leaders have more customers than ever before within the organisation. And those customers want more specific insights, metrics and analytics which provide insights into financial and operational performance, and thus drive strategic decision-making. From the board down to operational line managers and even third-party partners, there is greater demand for stronger and clearer financial metrics.