Pressure increasing on CFOs - PwC survey

Analysis

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Domestic CFOs face rising expectations, with scarce resources for development projects, a survey by Big Four firm PwC reveals.

"Based on the responses of the CFOs surveyed, very few Hungarian companies currently have a systemic, proactive transformation action plan in place. Instead, individual, reactive solutions have become more widespread, and the pandemic situation over the past year and a half has contributed significantly to their development. The survey also reveals that a significant proportion of CFOs feel that they have not made any significant progress on the overall transformation journey in the last three years, with the remaining distance to go almost unchanged," said Roland Balogh, senior manager at PwC Hungary, who led the conduction of the survey.  

Balogh notes that even finance executives often perceive transformation as a technology-heavy project in practice, even though, as the responses show, in most cases, it is human skills, capabilities, and change management that determine success.

According to Gábor Balázs, partner at PwC Hungary, CFOs have realized that only new competencies can deliver new kinds of results. In light of this, they expect staff reductions in areas that can be automated - for example, nearly 40% expect fewer colleagues to work in traditional accounting areas. At the same time, many forecast smaller increases in the areas of taxation, planning, and forecasting.

According to the survey, looking at the perceived skills of the CFOs' team, financial managers believe that knowledge and experience are currently highest in the classic accounting and tax areas.

In contrast, CFOs rate team members' skills in IT, data analysis, change, project management, and innovation much lower. This means that with their current team, CFOs will only be able to respond effectively to the transformation and automation challenges they face if they have the right training and recruit colleagues with new skills.

Innovative tools slowly but surely spreading in the field of financial accounting

According to the survey, most finance accounting teams are already using some kind of modern tool or solution, but the range of these is still limited. The responses suggest that cloud solutions have become almost unavoidable, opening up new opportunities and perspectives for businesses. Visualization tools are also widely used or planned to be used, but few are yet supported by dedicated RPA (robotic process automation) or low coding tools.

According to PwC's experts, this may suggest that there is still significant potential for efficiency and data quality improvements in the process area.

The survey points out that although supporting IT infrastructure is seen by CFOs as inevitable and is believed to contribute very significantly to the success of the finance function, barely 50% have ever created an IT map of the systems and reports used by finance. This lack of improvement is particularly striking when considering the significant challenge that finance managers perceive the implementation of new IT systems to be.

PwC's experts underline that when it comes to value creation, the role of the CFO is clear in terms of making the right plans and forecasts. The responses show that the majority still prefer to use spreadsheets for this purpose. However, there has been a very significant change in this area over the last year, and in many cases there have been improvements, with companies developing a more coherent and integrated planning process.

Talking about the challenges of today, Balogh says that everyone agrees that although the right technology is very important, at the end of the day it is the organization, skills, and attitude that determine the success of transformation projects. However, technology should still not be a "black box" operated by an isolated layer.

It is essential to develop and train staff, and to bring colleagues with new skills into the existing team. In most cases, change brings with it the need to adapt the organization and the structure of the team to the new processes. This means that complex training, change management plan and senior management commitment have become a cornerstone of success. 

The complete survey is available here.

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