A failure on part of corporate finance chiefs to adopt new technologies aimed at driving business growth opportunities would see them risk losing competitiveness and relevance in a fast-moving digital landscape, according to a new industry report.

Pooling insight from leading executives across the globe on the technologies changing the face of the finance function, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) opined in a report that Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) need to appreciate there are significant opportunities to be gained from the use of technology in finance.

The ACCA members interviewed for its research urged CFOs to build a "coherent and logical programme for technology adoption," with 70% of respondents saying that technology in the finance function can improve productivity.

Maggie McGhee, director of professional insights at ACCA, said attitudes need to change in step with the evolving digital landscape.

"CFOs need to develop a roadmap that enables them to recognise the short-term benefits and the longer-term gains. They need to accept that with these technologies it is often better to fail fast and be able to move on, rather than to not try at all.

"The core elements of people, processes, technology and data thread through any activity. Addressing each of these within an organisational culture that supports innovation and creativity is important for harnessing emerging technologies."

Overall, the majority of those surveyed by ACCA outlined six imperatives for success:

  • Align the strategy: Understand the organisation's wider goals and how finance, using technology, can best support these ambitions.
  • Build the business case: Identify the business case for using specific tools and solutions.
  • Appreciate the value of data: Explore how CFOs can make better use of data and analytics throughout finance and beyond.
  • Managing the organisational impact of technological change: Identify the organisational change required to embed new technologies successfully.
  • Focus on talent and skills: Equip the organisation with the people and skills base needed to exploit the technology.
  • Assess the impact of technology on governance and risk management: Ensure that investments are made with rigor and that the risks created by new technologies are properly monitored and controlled.

Collectively, these technologies enable enhanced finance processes, support the communication of information both internally and externally, provide protection for information assets, and look to the future while building upon existing technologies, the ACCA added.

CFO imperatives
Six imperatives for finance chiefs to ensure success. ACCA

"Whatever the size of the business, technology change is having an impact. In this corporate race for future relevance, recognising the opportunity is essential. The revolution has started and adaptation is critical. Adopting new technology needs to be a high priority for finance," McGhee said.

However, ACCA cautioned that CFOs who fail to take advantage of the opportunities could be removed from the strategic decision-making process and marginalised at the leadership table.

"CFOs need to consider the impact of key technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), cloud, analytics, social media, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence on finance. Those who embrace new tools and technologies have a huge opportunity to put finance at the centre of their enterprise's value creation Failure to do so will risk the future value that finance can achieve," McGhee concluded.