As the global economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic gains pace, leading organisations are counting on digital transformation to give them new opportunities. But new research from Workday finds that many chief financial officers (CFOs) are worried about their acceleration gap—the shortfall between the pace of change driven by new opportunity, and the ability of an organisation to capitalise on it.
The challenge appears to be particularly acute in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ):
Only 38% of CFOs in the region are confident that their teams can support high-speed planning, execution, and analysis cycles as the organisation pursues its strategic goals, compared with 55% of CFOs in EMEA.
Only 28% have confidence in their ability to make data-informed decisions in real-time, compared with 40% in EMEA.
The need for finance transformation was highlighted during the shift to remote working, and has been reinforced as organisations plan their return to the workplace, says Pete Schlampp, chief strategy officer at Workday. The good news now, he says, is that many CFOs are ready to catch up.
“The office of the CFO has not transformed as rapidly as that of other leaders within the organisation,” says Schlampp. “The pandemic underlined the imperative to transform—I think CFOs now are going to accelerate their pace of change.”
Automation is a Chance to Break Down Silos.
The benefits of that acceleration are clear, says Schlampp: “There is a huge opportunity to transform—the vast majority of planning in organisations is still done using spreadsheets. By automating processes, providing access to real-time data and insights, in a secure environment, we help businesses become more efficient."
What does that mean in practice? For many CFOs in APJ, it is about investing in technology that breaks down silos:
54% say that tools to unify financial, people, and operational data are their priority for speeding up the planning, execution, and analysis (PEA) cycle.
49% say they need tools that integrate data between disparate systems. These investments can also help towards more data-driven decision-making, according to 61% of APJ CFOs.
But APJ CFOs need to accelerate the pace. Only 51% are currently prioritising investments in technology to unify financial, people, and operational data.
Some countries are moving more quickly than others: in Korea and Singapore, for example, this rises to 62% and 56% respectively. In Australia, however, just 33% are prioritising investment in this technology.
New Practices Could Bring a Windfall.
More broadly, organisations in the region need to think about improving their processes and practices.
Are they engaging in continuous recalibration—taking time to analyse what is working in the PEA cycle? Are they working collaboratively across the organisation instead of stuck in silos? Do they have sufficient data to mitigate uncertainty, and can they rewire processes quickly enough? Is their scenario-planning robust? Ultimately, can they measure the real-world impact of their efforts?
Once they can answer “Yes'' to these questions, the benefits will be considerable. Our research suggests that 37% of APJ organisations are earning more than half of their revenues from digital products and services. In three years’ time, 52% expect to be in this position.
The market is there for the taking. It is up to APJ’s CFOs to help their organisations seize the opportunity.
Download the full report “Closing the Acceleration Gap: Toward Sustainable Digital Transformation” for more findings from the office of the CFO, CIO, and CHRO.