2019 public sector CFO survey: Case for change

Stronger role in oversight could improve management and performance

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Federal building The results of this year’s AGA CFO survey demonstrate a business case for change…now.

For at least 30 years, federal CFOs have been working diligently not only to strengthen the financial management of their organizations, but also to improve other management areas as their responsibilities expand. As certain management priorities emerge and are considered adequately significant, the trend has been to anoint another chief (e.g., chief information officer, chief human capital officer) to tackle the challenges. In response to the trend, the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act created chief data officers, evaluation officers, and statistical officials.

In many cases, the new roles lead to fractured management responsibilities within agencies. According to responses to this year’s survey, federal CFOs believe it is time to rationalize the duties assigned to their offices so that across the federal government there is consistent focus on the major challenges facing departments and agencies.

As in each annual survey, we asked CFOs to name their top challenges. This year, CFOs cited top challenges including:

  • The expanding role and responsibilities of the CFO
  • The critical need for qualified financial management staff
  • Budget uncertainty
  • Technology adoption

CFOs, and the federal financial management community in general, think the government’s management and performance would improve if CFOs had a stronger, more consistent role in oversight of their agency’s various management improvement functions. They also do not believe the community focuses adequately on what’s required to recruit and retain the talent needed to adapt to a rapidly changing technical environment.

The impact of budget uncertainty falls disproportionately on CFOs as they experience the same consequences of delay and indecision as their program and functional counterparts. At the same time, they must manage the fits and starts of the appropriations process on behalf of the enterprises they manage. Because of these and other difficulties, CFOs are having a hard time adopting rapidly evolving technology that promises to make them more efficient and effective.

There is a rising consensus throughout the federal financial management community that the time for substantial reform is now. The cry for a robust reform business case has never been so clearly articulated.

Download and read the 2019 Public Sector Annual CFO Survey for CFOs reports about functional responsibilities, top five challenges, human capital concerns, skills sets for hiring or training, budget priorities and expectations about impactful technologies.

Watch “A Business Case for Change: CFOs and the Path Forward; Public Sector 2019 Survey ” for highlights of the survey report, including financial management’s success with the CFO Act — implementing internal controls and improving financial data — and taking the next step to make data actionable.

Jay Hurt
Jay Hurt

Managing Director, Public Sector Advisory
T +1 703 637 2741