Some CFOs Savor Digital Readiness Dividends—But Not All | Jim Kaitz, President & CEO, Association for Financial Professionals

Transcript Abstract:

CFOTL: There’s little question that digital readiness remains top-of-mind for finance leaders, but I think that there’s always this mistake that we make when we think of this as a trending topic, whereas it is just an enormous undertaking and it presents challenges regularly to finance leaders, who aren’t necessarily addressing some of the problems or issues that they should be. Am I right about that? That there are some real challenges here?

Kaitz: The problem is that most operating models for finance are really having difficulty in kind of making this shift, and the critical currencies of digital analysis, information skills, they’re spread across multiple lines of business. And quite frankly, finance is still spending way more time reconciling data and interpreting it, and they’re really not being strategic thinkers. This kind of sets the stage for the questions that I think that CFOs need to be asking, and that is focusing on the areas where they really can invest in technology and have the greatest impact. Just very quickly, these would be the budget, the days to create a budget, the days to build a financial forecast, and the days to complete a rolling forecast. These are things that could be very much a part of a digital transformation in the finance organization.

CFOTL: We’re wondering if there’s perhaps a report card that you might have for us. Or, how do you think that these finance organizations are doing overall? Do you have some sense of the progress that finance organizations are making along the transformation path?

Kaitz: Let me just back up a little bit and give just some perspective in terms of digital transformation. A recent HBR article did a CEO survey, and digital transformation risk was their number one concern for 2019—but 70% of the respondents in this survey said that they wouldn’t achieve their goal. And that’s really because of two reasons: people skills and organizational paralysis. And, as CFOs think about what questions to be asking and what areas to focus on, I would say that there are four areas when you think about digitization and the impact that it is having: First, automation and robotics to improve processes. Second, digital visualization to give end users real-time financial information. Third, advanced analytics for finance to accelerate decision support. And then, fourth, advanced analytics for business to uncover hidden shareholder value and growth opportunities. Because ultimately the role of finance is to drive profitable growth in organizations. jb