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By Laurence Leyden, EMEA head of Financial Services Industries at SAP

Laurence Leyden

Laurence Leyden

Finance is thriving, and the next wave of digital technologies will only lead to greater success. This is the primary theme to emerge from a CFO Research study of European CFOs and their finance teams. The study, based on 598 responses received from CFOs in Europe, identifies four reasons why the future of finance looks so bright.

1. The Finance Function is Evolving—Boosting Engagement

Today’s finance professionals are offering deeper insights and strategic guidance, which enables them to experience far greater engagement with the companies they serve. Improving the value-added has a tremendous effect on positivity:

  • 78 percent of finance professionals find their work in finance interesting, meaningful and valuable.
  • 80 percent of respondents believe their work will become more interesting, meaningful and valuable over the next five years.

There is a strong belief that the possibilities are not yet exhausted. An overwhelming number of finance professionals (95 percent) are keen to stay in the business and witness the new finance trends.

2. The Finance Mandate is Expanding—and Finance Professionals Love their New Sphere of Influence

Many CFOs wish to have their fingers in other pies—notably, IT, legal, HR and procurement. Given their duty to track financial metrics, it makes sense that finance assumes responsibility for activities that feed directly into corporate performance management.

When asked to predict the business function that is the most likely to fall within the finance purview over the next five years, 29 percent of respondents said IT. The health of the CFO/CIO relationship will become critical if finance professionals are to deploy the increasingly sophisticated data analytics that will drive their businesses forward.

3. Businesses are Increasingly Complex—and Technology is Needed to Make the Numbers Actionable

CFOs in Europe are well aware of the complexity of the decision-making environment. A full 81 percent of European finance professionals agree that the success of an organization increasingly will depend on its ability to adapt to rapid change.

CFOs recognize that data has transformative potential for their organizations. Eight out of 10 respondents define success as predictive finance—being able to unpack the numbers in real-time so that businesses can swiftly and decisively adjust their actions in response to the rapidly changing business environment.

4. The Finance Function is Set to Thrive — and a High Level of Automation is Key

Making bold digitalization and automation decisions is mission-critical if finance professionals are to streamline processes for collaboration and reporting, and transition to their new role of strategic partner. In this regard:

  • 75 percent of respondents consider that a company’s success is dependent on having instantaneous access to a unified and comprehensive set of data.
  • 73 percent of respondents insist that their company’s success relies on infrastructure that enables them to analyze big data.

The message is clear—CFOs must embrace technology or get left out. 70 percent of respondents believe that companies must bring enterprise IT in line with consumer technologies in order improve speed, flexibility and ease of use. Any disconnect will impede their ability to meet future challenges and retain top talent.

The Future of Finance

European finance professionals are taking notice of the changing role of finance. The key to developing value-added capabilities is the ability to automate many, if not all, of the routine compliance, reporting and transaction-processing activities that absorb much of a finance professional’s time. If they are successful in that, finance professionals can spend more time working on sophisticated reporting and predictive analytics— solidifying their position as a trusted, strategic advisor.

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