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The Road Ahead – Industry Insight & Post-Pandemic Priorities

Published April 21 2021
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As 2021 promises light at the end of a long tunnel, economic uncertainty reigns supreme as the biggest challenge facing most organizations in the year ahead. According to results of a pulse survey of 139 financial executives conducted by CFO Dive’s studioID in December 2020, more than half of all respondents identified that unknown factor as the most worrisome part of the equation for their organizations. That response posted a large gap over secondary concerns that include the pace of digital transformation, the need for more skilled employees, and the logistics of reemerging to a remote or hybrid work environment.

Digital transformation continues to occupy a very important rank on the priority lists of most organizations looking beyond their immediate needs to weather the storm. When asked about their priorities for addressing a better financial future, respondents across the board are embracing plans to advance some sort of digital transformation strategy. Each organization must navigate its own unique road in doing so, and that reality is clearly seen in the varied approaches.

In the largest respondent group, 44% of financial executives surveyed appear to be eyeing digital transformation retroactively with a multi-departmental approach that will focus on catching up and extinguishing fires where they currently exist. That situational approach contrasts slightly with the ‘all-in’ approach embraced by a little more than a quarter of those surveyed who envision a process more focused on a migration of all processes and tools to the cloud simultaneously.

Although lingering economic uncertainty makes it difficult to definitively timestamp major projects, almost half of those surveyed expect the digital transformation plans of their organizations to unfold over a 2-3 year period. Other organizations appear committed to moving forward quickly, with 22% of respondents optimistic about achieving their digital transformation goals within a 1-year period.

One area where organizations appear to share a common mindset is in their commitment to investment in new technologies, with a whopping 96% of respondents saying that their organizations are committed to moving forward in that regard. For nearly half, that process appears to already be underway within their organizations, while an additional 31% expect to take action within a year. A majority expect their organizations to deploy the bulk of those resources in their financial/accounting departments, while 29% expect to focus on back-office systems.

As organizations around the world look for bluer skies in the days ahead, their core focus over the next three years will be largely dedicated to profit improvement through the addition of new products and services and the subtraction of expenses. Digital transformation will play an important role in that widely-adopted approach, and 46% of respondents believe that their best return on investment from digital transformation will be derived from the automation of tasks and processes within their organizations. Nearly one quarter of respondents view digital transformation as an avenue towards greater data visibility and insight, allowing them to leverage their information into better decision making for the future.

The complete survey results are now available for download here.