In short:

  • Blockchain, AI, machine learning and IoT have captivated the media in the past few years but aren’t top-of-mind for most CFOs.
  • In a Brainyard survey, 47% of respondents said that they would not work with these advanced techs over the next three years.
  • Instead, CFOs place an emphasis on pragmatic technologies like finance and accounting software, mobile and cybersecurity.

CFOs have a lot on their plates. Modern finance leaders are expected to act as value drivers, expanding the CFO role to include business strategy planning with CEOs, risk management, acting as the profitability police, assisting sales and, perhaps most notably as of late, data and KPI czar.

And now, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to underline an economic slowdown and market volatility, champion of technology for growth.

However, their emphasis might not be on techs that have dominated headlines for the last couple of years, like AI, blockchain, IoT and machine learning. A past Brainyard survey of 166 CFOs highlighted the complexity of the finance function’s evolving relationship with technology: 47% of respondents said they would not work with technologies like AI, machine learning, IoT and blockchain over the next three years.

A telling statistic? When surveyed CFOs were asked which techs they felt mattered the most, blockchain came in dead last.

Yet, at the same time, their plans directly involved technology. When asked how they planned to improve cash flow, a sizable slice, 38%, cited automated invoicing as a main technique.

The source of the discrepancy? Finance leaders are focusing on some important — but arguably less glamorous — technologies. In the rankings, finance and accounting software came out on top, followed closely by mobile and cybersecurity techs. These top rankings may be attributed to the need to comply with the GAAP rules required by ASC 606 for revenue recognition and ASC 842 for lease accounting. Additionally, mobile technology can be an important tool in automating data collection — another key priority.

As to cybersecurity, the pandemic has spawned a cottage industry of new attacks. Hopefully CFOs did get involved in security and crisis management plans, as they indicated they would.

Now, our newest survey shows many finance teams are looking at the possibility of continuing remote work post-pandemic. That trend may necessitate that finance leaders maintain their focus on more basic technological needs, with an emphasis on remote collaboration and automation. Technologies that enable remote closes — and are cloud-based — will likely be the main priority for the time being as the finance function makes its major transition to the future of work.

CFOs Have a Complicated Relationship with Tech

Mark Bianco

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