Data gaps hobbled firms during pandemic, say CFOs

Image by Carlos Muza

Data management and analysis was the biggest area of concern for CFOs throughout the pandemic and the lack of data insights challenged organisations to make informed, fast decisions in the face of ongoing uncertainty, a survey report from Workday shows.

In March 2021, Workday surveyed 267 global CFOs in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the United States, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The online survey focused on organisations with more than 500 employees.

Findings showed that only 19% of CFOs have automated nearly all their finance processes and are currently handling financial reporting digitally. With the majority of organisations in the midst of digital transformation, CFOs also reported gaps in their data, ultimately affecting performance over the past year. 

The lack of data to make critical business decisions impacted product launches, according to 28% of CFOs, with 24% citing missed financial forecasts, and 17% citing misaligned resource investments.

The survey also revealed that nearly half (49%) of CFOs said their organization’s biggest gap over the past year was the ability to execute with accurate, timely data that drives quick, informed decisions.

Also, when looking at investments, 50% of CFOs said they made the most progress over the past 12 months closing the data gap by prioritizing intelligent data foundations — creating a single source of truth for finance, worker, and operational data — and advanced analytics for better decision making.

Additionally, three-fifths (60%)  of CFOs are investing in reimagining finance operations in the cloud and deploying artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions to address finance digital transformation.

Further, environmental, social, and corporate governance (29%)  as well as diversity and inclusion (26%) are listed as the emerging topics that businesses are most focused on prioritizing beyond technology — ranking higher than cybersecurity and cryptocurrency.

“It’s clear that a lack of insights during the pandemic resulted in missed opportunities for companies to drive top and bottom line growth across a variety of areas,” said Barbara Larson, Workday’s SVP for Accounting, Tax, and Treasury. “And the real gap CFOs identified was not just data — but timely, decision-ready data.”