Financial executives at large global organizations are living in interesting times. CFOs are under pressure from boards, local authorities and auditing partners to improve the timeliness, accuracy, transparency and efficiency of consolidating reliable results across multiple borders and operational boundaries.
At the same time, currency fluctuations and other economic conditions create more difficulty in reporting and unpredictability in forecasting future performance.
The ability to successfully manage complexity and uncertainty has become an imperative in the face of mounting regulatory requirements, changing accounting standards, accelerating mergers and acquisitions, and greater economic instability. CFOs must have the controls and processes in place to deal with increasing requirements and complexity without negatively impacting the timeliness of, and confidence in, the numbers.
Yet, CFO and board confidence in the accuracy and compliance of financial reporting has declined dramatically. A recent E&Y survey of 1,000 CFOs around the world found that only 55 percent were fully or somewhat confident in compliance, compared to 84 percent in 2014. In addition, just 48 percent of respondents believed their financial reports had the confidence of their boards, compared to 71 percent in 2014.
Finance leaders are in the middle of a perfect storm. They are in the midst of transforming financial reporting and planning processes to address the growing demands of external and internal stakeholders for better, more varied and meaningful information and analysis. Corporate management and regulators alike are demanding deeper insights into company operations and financial and strategic risks and opportunities from their finance leaders. Business markets and company operations are more complex and changing rapidly. Risks are more acute and far-reaching. The need to know is paramount.
However, while the challenges are great, so are the opportunities for finance to become a more valued and strategic business partner to management. The demand for greater agility and more rigorous and trusted financial and business insight, analysis and counsel has never been greater. CFOs and financial organizations that evolve to meet the challenge will play a strategic role in ensuring business success.
In a brand new study published by the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network, and sponsored by Tagetik, "Progressive CFOs: Inspired by What's Required" features insights gathered from one-on-one conversations with financial executives at large complex global businesses such as Xerox, Aggreko, Assicurazioni Generali, John Hancock, UniCredit Group and others. These leaders on the frontlines of financial change contributed their insights in order to examine the growing challenges and requirements of finance executives as they seek to meet demands for improved accuracy and timeliness in delivering much-needed and greatly expanded information to external and internal audiences. The study also looks at the new platforms and processes that financial organizations need to improve their capacity to deliver.
Today’s fast-evolving, highly competitive and often tightly regulated global business environment is increasing complexity within the Office of Finance and intensifying the pressure for faster and more accurate consolidation, reporting and forecasting. The interviews reveal a variety of factors driving this mounting pressure to perform, including:
Discussions with these finance executives at large global enterprises make it clear they are facing an operating environment, competitive landscape and regulatory climate that are far more demanding than at any other time in history. As a result, the depth and complexity of information being required in financial and reporting processes are straining some organizations.
Yet, modern finance teams must go far beyond the simple consolidation and historical reporting of numbers if they are to help their businesses keep pace with change and retain the trust of stakeholders. While finance executives are certainly looking to tackle the challenges of financial and regulatory reporting, they are keenly aware of the need to take on a more strategic role when it comes to guiding and facilitating decisions at all levels of the organization. They are looking to automate the “have-to’s” of the job — such as required reporting — so that they and their teams can spend more time working with business and functional leaders and performing more detailed risk analysis and planning.
Making this transformational journey should be at the top of the agenda for today’s financial executives and their organizations. Executives agree: the trip will require the integration of new skill sets and disciplines into the Office of Finance and the establishment of more integrated business processes. Big Data represents a major new opportunity and challenge. Most certainly, new and more sophisticated financial and performance management systems will be critical to both handling basic reporting requirements and providing deeper more meaningful analysis and planning to drive competitive advantage. As this report shows, organizations that have moved to a new generation of integrated performance management are realizing major benefits in their efforts to manage change and become strategic partners to the business.