New breed of CFO has emerged, says Sage report, as data analytics drives finance

Six-in-ten say they’re primarily responsible for digital transformation.

But, four-in-ten spend same amount of time on data gathering as analysis, revealing that skills and tools struggle to keep pace

A new report from Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions, says the role of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has changed forever. Their primary role is no longer in financial reporting, but they are now polymaths driving strategy and making technology decisions that affect the whole organisation.

The ‘Sage CFO 3.0 – digital transformation beyond financial management’ report is a wide-ranging look into the future of business finance. It reveals a significant evolution in the CFO’s job function, having to become a ‘ninja of numbers’ in digital transformation, data analytics, cyber security, and financial accounting.

The study showed nine-in-ten (94%) financial decision makers believe their financial role has expanded and shifted ‘significantly’ in the last five years. Now, six-in-ten say they’re primarily responsible for digital transformation.

Yet, two thirds of CFOs (64%) are still unable to make data-driven decisions to drive business change. Almost half (42%) are spending just as much time collecting and preparing data as they are analysing it, limiting the overall productivity of the finance function. For many, this means they rely on experience and intuition, rather than the overwhelming weight of data they have at their disposal.

Sabby Gill, Managing Director UKI at Sage said: “CFOs are expected to be ‘visionaries’, using data to make intelligent decisions, in order to drive digital transformation in their organisation. For this to become a reality, it has to be easier for leaders to act upon data at speed. They need tools that will empower them to use their skills and experience in a much more compelling way.”

“While the burst of e-commerce and, in turn, digital transformation in business poses many opportunities, it is the very nature of e-commerce that is driving the top three challenges that financial decision makers face – managing risk such as fraud and cybersecurity, compliance and legislation changes and adapting to changing role requirements”, said Gill.

However, the report also highlights organisations must not overlook the cultural impact of new technology. While eight-in-ten respondents (86%) believe that automation has already improved business productivity, six-in-ten are worried about the extent to which their role will be automated in future. The vast majority (93%) believe that technology has to be carefully selected to align with the culture of an organisation.

“Automation does not pose a threat to the workforce, but rather an opportunity to focus on the changing requirements of the business and core competencies. It’s clear that investment in data-centric tools and skill-sets will help propel business finance forward.

“The intersection between emerging technology and human interaction has created an opportunity for leaders to reimagine business, upskill and offer a more strategic and visionary approach to their role.”

The majority (94%) of finance leaders believe next-generation financial management technology has a crucial part to play as their role changes. At the same time, technological literacy is the number one priority for over two thirds (78%) of CFOs.

Sage releases ‘Sage CFO 3.0 – digital transformation beyond financial management’ as the company announces the launch of Sage Intacct cloud financial management in the UK. For more information visit www.sage.com/uk/intacct.