“CFOs are preoccupied analyzing their businesses and refocusing resources to support corporate strategy,” said Nick Vellani, national managing principal of Financial Management at Grant Thornton. “As a result, CFOs have had to look for new ways to capitalize on trends like automation and outsourcing. The simple truth is that the CFO is now a primary decision maker, thought leader and voice of reason.”
The changing data between February and May also sheds light on just how deeply CFOs are involved in their organizations’ work-from-home initiatives and related IT and cybersecurity efforts.
“Transitioning to the lockdown was a massive undertaking that required CFOs to use their skillsets in new ways,” Vellani added. “Whether CFOs will permanently own their new ‘change agent’ and ‘strategist’ roles after the pandemic subsides will largely depend on their abilities to delegate, automate, train and outsource.”
An innovation slowdown
According to the survey, the pandemic has also influenced the ways organizations innovate. In the February survey, approximately 70% of finance leaders indicated they had implemented key emerging technologies or planned to do so within the next two years. In May, 62% of respondents had delayed their innovation projects, while another 19% reshaped such projects. Only 19% of respondents accelerated innovation projects.
“To maintain positive momentum, decision makers must continue to push for innovation — even during the economic slowdown,” said Chris Stephenson, managing principal of Product Innovation at Grant Thornton. “While technology is often the core area, it’s important to understand that the boundaries of innovation extend beyond just technology.”
Stephenson suggested that finance leaders should identify their immediate challenges and develop incremental improvements that deliver measurable results.
“Unlike transformative technological upgrades, incremental enhancements often require little or no financial investment,” said Stephenson. “By thinking incrementally, CFOs can make continual innovations tailored to their immediate challenges, which delivers ongoing results, especially during a pandemic.”
Grant Thornton’s Vellani summed it all up this way: “Businesses are learning to navigate a new and complex environment — one that requires a thoughtful and strategic plan. In response, CFOs must restructure their responsibilities and build a finance function that will support transformative changes.”
For additional findings from Grant Thornton’s 2020 CFO Survey, visit: www.grantthornton.com/cfosurvey2020.
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