CFOs forecast FP&A teams to double time spent on strategic tasks and they will leverage technology to get there

Adaptive Insights, the only pure-play cloud vendor to be named a leader in strategic cloud corporate performance management (CPM), today released its global CFO Indicator Q2 2016 report, revealing CFOs’ views on how they plan to create a strategic financial planning and analysis (FP&A) function and fulfill their role as drivers of financial transformation across organisations. The survey queried over 300 CFOs around the globe about their expectations for FP&A team staffing, composition, and capabilities, with a goal to understand the state of the FP&A function today and into the future. The survey also queried CFOs on their confidence with global economies and their ability to accurately forecast sales amid today’s market uncertainty.

“CFOs are expected to be strategic leaders, as they are in the ideal position to manage a company’s growth and sustainability,” said Robert S. Hull, founder and chairman at Adaptive Insights. “But to meet that expectation, they require a truly unobstructed view of the business – a view greatly impacted by the analysis and scenario planning that is the responsibility of the FP&A function. With the right mix of tools and skills, CFOs and their teams can help their organisations glean the insights needed to ensure maximum corporate performance.”

Seventy-five percent of CFOs want their teams to have a strategic and strong impact on their organisations, yet only 46% believe they will have that kind of impact by 2017. The survey revealed CFOs estimate that 11-25% of their teams’ time is spent on strategic tasks today, and they expect that number to grow to 25-50% by 2020.The key question is how will they get there.

The report finds:

  • Lack of time does not mean lack of staff: The survey revealed that FP&A teams continue to grapple with many familiar challenges. Nearly half of CFOs report that their teams are working up to 50 hours per week, yet continue to lack the time required to perform strategic tasks. While lack of time remains a constant, the majority of CFOs don’t believe that adding staff will solve the problem. Three of four CFOs do not plan to expand their FP&A teams in the next 12 months, with the majority stating that their teams are adequately staffed.
  • Increased effectiveness via analytics and collaboration: FP&A teams get high marks in the areas of management reporting and data gathering for budgets, but rank the lowest when it comes to data analysis and their ability to advise the CFO and c-suite on business decisions. As a result, CFOs would like to see their teams improve analytics skills (46%) and ability to collaborate across the business (45%) in order to become more effective.
  • Lack of effectiveness translates into lack of accuracy: CFOs likely desire their teams to improve analytics and collaboration skills as quickly as possible. The survey revealed that 37% of CFOs didn’t meet their sales forecasts for Q1 2016. The impact of missed forecasts can be felt far and wide, from resource allocations and supply chain management to shareholder confidence. When coupled with an ongoing lack of confidence in the global economy, accurate forecasting and analysis become even more critical.
  • Technology key to closing resource gap: For CFOs that aren’t adding new members to their finance team but need additional resources, nearly half were going to close the gap by implementing new technology (46%), with over a third hiring part-time resources and consultants (36%).
  • Broader business knowledge through programmes rather than experience: When asked what one skill was missing from their FP&A teams, CFOs overwhelmingly cited business understanding. Yet, they don’t believe it is important for prospective candidates to have experience in other functions outside of FP&A. Only about one in 10 CFOs believe it is very or completely important that a prospective candidate has worked in a function outside of accounting and finance; in fact, 24% report that it is not important at all. To infuse their teams with broader business knowledge, they are instead implementing training programmes. Ironically, the vast majority state that their training methods include collaboration and integration with other parts of the organisation (78%).
  • An uncertain global economy is still a certainty: Eight out of 10 CFOs (86%) consider it likely or very likely that market volatility will continue. CFOs also had positive outlooks on only two economies: the United States, with 29% more respondents rating it strong or very strong compared with those who rated it weak or very weak; and the Australia/New Zealand region, which received a net positive rating of +6% strong or very strong compared with ratings of weak or very weak. Brazil, the host of this year’s Summer Olympics, received the lowest score of confidence with -70%. One in four CFOs also met their sales forecasts, with 16% of CFOs coming in 6% or more below forecast.

For more information about the survey, read the full CFO Indicator Q2 2016 report, the “Ascending the Peak to Strategic Finance” blog and view the CFO Q2 2016 Indicator infographic.

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