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The CFO tech outlook for 2021: digitization and growth

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The CFO tech outlook for 2021: digitization and growth

Please make everything automated, accurate and intuitive across the business while helping all departments expand revenue. According to a recent Gartner study: Top priorities for Finance Leaders in 2021; the above statement is the standard work brief for finance leaders globally plus we forgot to mention – IT budgets aren't going up to cater for the rapid digitization.

Gartner surveyed 300 finance leaders such as CFOs, controllers and heads of financial planning to identify the top financial priorities and expected challenges for 2021. The results show that CFOs and their subfunction leaders are focused on digitalizing operations and improving the delivery and effectiveness of its core activities. Alexander Bant, Chief of Research (finance), Gartner explains:

"In this environment, CFOs clearly need to champion transformation efforts that focus on adding value. In some cases, this means removing the drag these efforts currently place on the finance function to increase agility and responsiveness. More broadly, the accelerated transformation will be achieved by optimizing the finance organization for efficiency and effectiveness."

Alexander Bant, Chief of Research (Finance), Gartner

The good news from these findings is there is affordable technology that the finance office can use to accelerate digitization and help the finance team work more efficiently.

Finding 1: Data and analytics tops the digitalization agenda for finance leaders

Analytics has become a key driver of how value is created in most businesses. The rising importance of analytics has also revealed just how hard it is to get right.

Finance analysts and decision-makers are drowning in data and, as the complexity increases, they struggle to identify what data is most important and how best react to what the data says.


Traditionally, finance leaders do not allow many people to access ERP or corporate financial data due to the risk of submitting incorrect entries or corrupting the data. The Phocas financial solution protects the integrity of the legacy data while giving members of the finance team, or staff with financial reporting needs, the freedom to manipulate and share financial information. All this happens outside the ERP with the flexibility to analyze the data to identify areas of concern and opportunity.

Phocas' financial solution is an easy-to-use platform to share key financial information across your team. It will help open the lines of communication between the people who are reviewing the numbers and the finance team and no matter where the conversation is taking place; everyone is working from the same numbers. Users can also add custom calculations, create dimensions and sub-categories aligned to your industry, and convert numbers and tables into visual charts and graphs on custom dashboards.

Finding 2: CFOs want more digital up-skilling in finance

Developing digital skills is a prerequisite, as organizations — and finance functions — accelerate digitalization, but upskilling finance teams may be harder than it first appears.

Traditional development approaches, such as classroom-based training and formal course work, rarely keep pace with the digital technology evolution — and don't allow employees to immediately practice and apply the skills.


Utilizing the right tools means keeping things simple, finance teams focus on collecting the right data and presenting it clearly to the business, to drive the right business outcomes. Teams are then building on that foundation with data insights – allowing the company to find new opportunities and long-term value.

Develop a plan for change that reviews the finance team's goals and appetite for change will uncover many ways to automate, reduce costs, and increase transactional processes' efficiency.

Addressing time-consuming processes is the right place for companies to start and easy to get quick wins.

At Prochem, management accountant Shane Angel started by tackling low margin accounts, Previously it had been a very manual process and the finance team only had time to review high-level invoices.

"When we started using Phocas, we were able to unlock all of the low margin invoices automatically – we'd set a threshold for each account type, and we could identify them all. This was a huge time saver," adds Angel.

Shane Angel is a management accountant and a typical example of a professional who augments his traditional financial responsibilities with comprehensive data analysis. Angel describes himself as 'the Phocas guy' and also 'the numbers guy'. He carries out the financial reporting as well as sharing data insights and skills across the company's nine branches in Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

Another obvious process for change is financial statement reporting as many studies have shown about 40% of management accountants time is spent on month-end reports.

Trade Supply Group use an Epicor Eclipse ERP system that is matched with Phocas data analytics and Phocas Financial Statements.

"Phocas Financial Statements takes away the nightmare of producing consolidating financial statements that are broken down by branch division or consolidated for the entire company," says Scott Sokoly, Business System Administrator

The head office accounting team can consolidate or split the statements anyway the different companies want them and to any level of detail; be that a top level or viewing individual expenses.

"The accounting department is excited because it's less work to make a consolidated financial statement. In the past, we have five Excel sheets and you basically add them together. It's just busy work for them so I think they're excited they don't have to do that anymore," says Sokoly.

Check out the ultimate guide to finance software, budgeting and forecasting

Data analytics has a low barrier to entry

Modern finance solutions do not require big project commitments of time and head count. Since these solutions are offered as out of the box, they provide an intuitive interface and integrate seamlessly with a variety of enterprise resource planning solutions and other data sources.

Key to the success of these technologies is the fact that many are built for users of all skill levels. Gone are the days of dedicated product specialists and teams focuses solely on managing Excel spreadsheets and reporting for the entire company. Support is minimized and broad deployment and integration can be done in bite-sized chunks. Companies can start small and then scale up, adding more data sources and users as they go and as needed.


Written by Phocas Software
Phocas Software

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