Wednesday, September 11, 2019

CFOs too busy to take on more despite expectations, survey finds

Dive Brief:

  • Almost 40% of CFOs say they're juggling too many tasks — 12 a day, on average — to worry about digitally transforming their operations or giving cybersecurity the attention it deserves, a survey released Monday found.
  • Cash flow management, data analysis, hiring and other traditional duties are among the biggest concerns of financial leaders, far more than implementing the latest tech or security innovations, the survey of 166 CFOs across 23 industries showed. The survey was conducted by NetSuite research affiliate Brainyard.
  • "We have to compartmentalize," Drew Cook, CFO of Pact, a fair-trade apparel company, told CFO Dive. "Whether we like it or not, we have to always be thinking about cash flow and the need for capital. Cybersecurity and [other digital priorities] keep us up at night, but these things aren't what drive long-term value."

Dive Insight:

The Brainyard survey found most CFOs — almost half — have not yet invested in cutting-edge technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, cryptocurrency or the Internet of Things (IoS).

CFOs think their corporate culture isn't ready for these changes or they're not sure the investment, at this point, is worth it, the report said. They're also not sure their legacy systems can adapt to the newer technologies.

In contrast, most say their priorities over the next two years involve improving performance of their traditional duties. 55% say they want better and faster reporting, and 50% say they want to speed revenue growth. Only about one-third say implementing new technology is a priority.

Cybersecurity is also not a priority. Almost 55% of CFOs say their company has no full-time cybersecurity staff, and another 7% say they don't have staff but plan to change that soon.

Cook's company has basic protections in place, he told CFO Dive. But beyond that, he relies on third-party vendors.

"You have to get security right," he said. "Part of doing that is having dependable partners."

He said it's reassuring to work with a specialist who is able to keep up on the latest developments in cybersecurity in a way a CFO can't. "It helps knowing they're doing it with other companies across the country," he said. "It helps to ensure you're state of the art, cutting edge."

Cook said the trend of CFOs being asked to take on more tasks stems from a growing realization among CEOs and boards that the analytical approach finance people take to management is useful across the enterprise.

"Whether it's marketing or HR or legal, the analytical mindset can be beneficial across the board," he said. "So the CFO is being asked to play a larger role in the organization."

The downside of that, though, as the survey results show, is that CFOs are finding it hard to combine the new tasks with the old. But Cook said the solution is to work with third-party vendors, rather than to push the new tasks to the bottom of the pile — not just for security but for other functions.

"Outsourcing is one way to do more with fewer resources," he said. "We outsource a lot of things, including fulfillment. We're all being encouraged to do more with less."

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