Written by Hette Mollema, Vice President Benelux at Workday

Regardless of what the path through uncertainty looks like for any individual business, most finance professionals understand they should define their path forward in a way that encourages and enables business agility.

The top roadblocks stopping businesses from reaching their digital transformation goals including business agility, are workforce skills (38%) and cultural barriers such as trust, transparency, and engagement (35%), according to “Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation,” a global survey by Workday of 1,150 senior business executives. But these figures rise to 46% (skills as barrier) and 56% (culture as barrier) among CFOs.

The survey responses show CFOs have a strong awareness of organizational culture, and they’re poised to effect change:

  • 24% of finance leaders say the most important element they need to accelerate planning, execution, and analysis cycles are technologies that help them to integrate data between disparate systems and break down internal data silos.
  • 21% say technology that unifies financial, people, and operational data is most critical.

So for 2023, this is what CFOs should be focusing on:

1. CFOs should prioritize agility and reinvention in response to the fast-changing macroeconomic environment.

In this environment, CFOs will be expected to lead the company through challenges, outmaneuver the competition, and emerge stronger on the other side. This requires finance leaders to be agile, prioritize in new ways, and rethink what is possible in terms of technology and processes. CFOs and their teams will not only bring together the power of data and technology to eliminate data silos but also reinvent processes to streamline and simplify data access and decision-making.

2. Increased trust between the CFO and CIO will continue to be critical

CFOs have traditionally been focused on digital transformation within finance. But today, they are more broadly focused on enterprise-wide innovation. Over the next year, IT and finance will need to work together to harness new technology effectively. As both the CFO and CIO roles evolve to focus on creating business value, trust and collaboration between these two leaders will be paramount to continued success, especially in an uncertain environment.

3. Data science skills will play an increasingly important role in finance’s ability to create business value

Financial integrity and risk management will continue to be table stakes for the organization, but as the role of finance evolves to be more strategic and agile, the ability to find, analyze, and mine terabytes of data for insights will be in equal demand to more traditional financial skills. Data is one of any organization’s most valuable assets, and how you harness that power matters. Every CFO will be on the lookout for top talent in data science – from data analytics to data management – as well as skills in the fields of AI, ML, and data storytelling.

4. Your tech strategy will become your hiring and talent retention strategy

Employees want to do meaningful work. For finance and accounting teams, that means doing more than manual data input or living in spreadsheets five days a week. In today’s talent market where skilled finance workers are at a premium, more than ever, employee experience will be paramount to building—and retaining—a skilled and agile finance team. When teams leverage technology to automate manual processes, they can instead focus on finding anomalies or data trends that help the business understand the “why” behind the numbers, acting as a more strategic partner to the business.

5. The journey to zero-day close will drive further adoption of accounting automation

Traditionally, reconciling financial statements at the end of a reporting period—whether monthly, quarterly, or annually—has been a labor-intensive process that can take weeks to complete. But one of accounting’s most ambitious goals is aiming to change that: a zero-day close, leveraging continuously available, up-to-date information to close the books at any time. While a zero-day close is the ultimate goal, it’s the journey to this goal that will result in incremental day-to-day process improvements – such as automating manual data entry for invoices or manual journal creation – to truly advance the finance function.

In times of great uncertainty and unpredictability, organisations will need to be agile and flexible to remain successful. Finance plays an important role in realising or at least enabling that agility. For CFOs the main priorities in 2023 are to facilitate and accelerate processes and strengthen the value that can be extracted from data. This will make finance more valuable to the organisation and provide much more flexibility and agility to the organisation as a whole.