Gartner, Inc. has identified the top 10 trends that will be critical to the success of CFOs. CFOs and Finance leaders can sometimes struggle to make sense of the many trends that impact their finance function and the wider organization today. Understanding these 10 trends will enable them to succeed in their role.

1) Digital is creating a skills disconnect

As organizations continue a path toward digital transformation, finance talent management strategies must evolve more quickly. CFOs need to revise competency models to address the digital shifts impacting their business, which will inform how they recruit, develop, retain and provide career growth for staff.

“A lack of digital savviness in finance will impact an organization’s ability to make good decisions,” said Craig Wilton, Senior Director, Advisory. “Finance staff must understand how digital technologies interact with the corporate ecosystem and also how to articulate bias and risk in machine learning.”

2) Demand for decision-ready data

Organizations often handle data in a rigid way that doesn’t help the business make a decision. Finance leaders must make trade-offs in governance standards to make their data more useful in decision-making.

This requires a pragmatic mindset where governance principles can be loosened, where data can reside with its owner, and where highly governed data is presented alongside more intuitive sources.

“Finance must optimize data for decision-readiness rather than accuracy and precision,” said Wilton.

3) The AI revolution has begun

“In the coming decade, artificial intelligence (AI) will optimize or transform nearly every activity in finance,” said Wilton. “Finance leaders should educate themselves on how the function may change, prepare their team with new skill sets, and explore the investments needed to deploy AI.”

Key questions to answer are: “How can I build a data infrastructure that can support AI?”, “How do I develop or acquire the necessary skills?” and “Where are the low hanging fruit for me to deploy AI?”

4) An emerging fourth era for ERP

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) has entered its fourth era and for finance leaders this means being ready for standard global processes across its organization with real-time data and intelligent platforms. Finance organizations will need to respond faster than ever before to continuous cloud-updated ERP and treat it as an organizational rather than an IT asset.

Finance leaders, therefore, need to think about how their team will operate in a real-time planning, budgeting and closing environment. They must consider what new platform capabilities such as AI, machine learning and blockchain will mean for finance organizations, and how it can leverage these to improve actionable data insights.

5) Growing use of global business services

Shared services as a concept has moved far beyond finance transaction processing and now includes value-added services in finance and beyond. Focus away from just cost reduction toward value delivery.

“Automation is reducing the need to chase labor arbitrage across the globe,” said Wilton. “Finance leaders should think about how shared services can maximize value-added services, and how they will develop the necessary skills to do that.”

6) Reporting goes on-demand

Reporting expectations have evolved, and this will increase pressure on the finance team to deliver real-time reporting. Moreover, stakeholders will demand real-time access to finance data and advanced analytics.

Finance leaders must understand how to make this a reality: What technologies will enable finance organizations to deliver on-demand reporting? How should data be governed as reporting expands to integrate financial and nonfinancial data? What skills will finance leaders need to deliver on-demand reporting?

7) RPA is putting internal controls at risk

The efficiency and potential of robotic process automation (RPA) are already spurring widespread adoption in finance. It’s important that finance leaders do not allow themselves to be blinded by the many benefits. In some cases, RPA robots have been used without the knowledge of internal control teams, causing unknown reporting risks.

Finance teams must balance governance of RPA and other digital technologies with efficiency. They must think about how they can track RPA use cases for their impact on controls and think about what are the right internal controls for RPA.

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