CFO's Strategy: How to Invest in the Right Tech

As digital disruption continues to reshape entire industries virtually overnight, the way organizations approach technology investments is undergoing radical change. And, in step with CFOs' expanding role in strategic planning, expert guidance around tech investment is a key area where CFOs can contribute value.  

So what tech investments are top of mind for today's CFOs? What are their priorities — and what risks do they foresee? Tatum's 2018 CFOs’ Pathway to Growth Study uncovered some surprising results.

Data Analytics Are a Top Priority

Big data presents a tremendous opportunity for companies with advanced digital capabilities to establish — or increase — competitive advantage over competitors. From the vast ocean of data will emerge business intelligence to fuel growth, as well as key insights about customers, which these companies will use to create best-in-class experiences.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tatum's study revealed that data analytics topped the list of IT investment priorities among CFOs today.

The second- and third-most-pressing priorities — customer relationship management (53%) and accounting and financial management (47%), respectively — similarly reveal the ways in which disruptive new technology tools are both a challenge and an opportunity for most organizations today.

What's more, all of these investments will lead to new opportunities for CFOs to contribute value by leveraging insights from non-financial data.

Talent is a Critical Constraint on Growth

Technological disruption, global risks, economic shifts, new regulatory burdens, upstart competitors — there's no shortage of factors that might keep CFOs up at night contemplating an uncertain future.

Yet, Tatum's study found that, of all the factors potentially holding organizational growth in check, the largest concern for CFOs today is the availability of qualified talent. And that might explain the reluctance on the part of most organizations in Tatum's study to take on new hires: If there's a perceived scarcity of qualified talent in the talent market, why not focus resources on upskilling existing employees instead?

Indeed, finance leaders from the majority (51%) of organizations said they planned to leverage existing full-time employees to realize value from their new tech investments.

But CFOs need to tread carefully here — and think hard about what that will really look like in practice.

Evangelize the Link Between Investments in Tech and Talent  

How will organizations see the full value of their tech investments tomorrow if they don't plan to hire — and they also don't have talent with the necessary tech skills on hand today? That's the question CFOs need to think about as they help their organizations prepare strategically for future tech investments.

On the one hand, some organizations will have genuine, organization-wide buy-in and commitment from stakeholders to developing exceptional training and upskilling programs for existing talent. In that case, it's imperative for CFOs to be a part of the conversation from the outset and to ensure that the most relevant finance- and tech-related skill sets are being trained for. Bear in mind that, in Tatum's study, CFOs cited skills related to forecasting, planning, analysis and technology as the most pressing challenges facing the finance function — so the learning curve may be steep.

On the other hand, in the name of saving costs, some organizations will no doubt choose a more myopic approach and expect to see ROI from new tech investments, without acquiring the talent they need or adequately upskilling existing employees. In that case, CFOs must be vocal about the potential risks and pitfalls such an approach creates. CFOs should also collaborate with other members of the C-suite to not only build support, but also demonstrate the ways that upskilling and training can contribute short- and long-term business value. If not, their careers might well tank alongside the investment.

Fortunately, there's also a third path: Partner with a strategic sourcing provider who understands your talent and business needs to find and place qualified talent. However, too few CFOs today appear to be ready to take advantage of the opportunity. In, fact, just 14 percent of CFOs in Tatum's survey indicated that outsourcing was currently a business priority.

That's a mistake, because staffing partners like Tatum can not only help organizations find the latent they need to thrive tomorrow, we also generate considerable cost savings that will impact the bottom line today.

Ready to make a long-term impact? Tatum has your back. Click here to learn more about our full suite of solutions.