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Why Reporting Remains a Top-Level Priority for CFOs

March 5, 2016 Mitchell Buchanan  
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No one is saying P&L information isn’t important, but for finance department leaders, it may just be the tip of the iceberg.

At least that’s the only interpretation you can really make when you look at the recent results of a survey of CFOs that was published on CFO Practice Advisor. Conducted by cloud ERP provider Intacct, it showed an overwhelming majority (80%) see reporting and analytics as their top priority.

“These results show that the CFO role is evolving beyond functional aspects—such as closing the books and mitigating risk—to become a more holistic strategic advisor, empowered by insights and able to pinpoint and advise on strategic efficiencies and opportunities across the company,” the article said.

None of this will be too surprising to CFOs who for years have been looking at playing a more transformative role in the enterprise. In fact, it may confirm how important it is to make better use of information and use this kind of data as a benchmark for how they spend their time.

The Machines Take Over?

The one question the research raises, of course, is how finance departments can turn reporting and analysis into something more meaningful to their organizations. An interesting and speculative look at the possibilities recently ran on the Financial Executives International site, which identified reporting among the top five CFO priorities. It sounded like something out of a science-fiction movie:

“With machine learning, CFOs can automate financial reporting tasks that were previously extremely time-consuming and gain deep insights into the large volumes of data they are collecting. The true power of the latest generation of these tools lies in the ability to anticipate business needs, staying ahead of costly incidents like unexpected maintenance and business downtime for customers. It is changing the way that finance professionals do their job while driving the transition from controllership to stewardship. As a result, CFOs and their teams can leverage machine learning to free themselves up from manual data crunching to focus on analyzing the insights the data provides them.”

Realistically, though, it may take a while before that kind of artificial intelligence permeates the finance department of the average enterprise. In the meantime, there’s still a lot of technology available on the market today to make reporting faster, easier and more valuable. CFOs clearly know this is where they need to double down.

And as they already know, in today’s fast-paced businesses environment financial reporting and analysis tools are a must. Perhaps by the time a similar survey is conducted next year we’ll be able to see some amazing examples of the results.

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