Digital disruption is relentless and unavoidable in today’s business world. From AI to automation, tech innovations are forcing organizations to adapt and evolve. So how can their accounting teams and finance function keep pace?   


In a conversation with Strategic Finance, CFOs Jennifer Ryu of RGP and Omar Choucair of Trintech explain how tech transformations are redefining company roles and responsibilities—and why this is driving demand for talent, skills development, and collaboration.


SF: What’s driving disruption for accounting and finance professionals today?


Ryu: Digital transformation and emerging technology are having the biggest impacts on the expansion of the CFO role and the evolution of the finance function. Our firm’s research shows that large companies took on an average of 20 $1 million-plus transformation initiatives in the last year alone. As a result, more CFOs and finance leaders are overseeing the implementation of digital transformation, automation, and cloud migration initiatives. Of the 200-plus finance decision makers we surveyed, more than half expect to take on more technology migration and implementation responsibilities in the next 12 months. Nearly half of these individuals also expect to have more digital transformation responsibilities.


On the talent management side, skills gaps are widening because of the tight labor market. More than 40% of financial decision makers we surveyed said their organization’s finance function is facing a skills gap in AI and automation. And nearly one in four said they’re facing a finance and accounting skills gap. These challenges are being accelerated by a growing urgency to better leverage AI and automation as well as the ongoing accountant shortage.


Choucair: Advances in technology, particularly the rise of generative AI, pose the most pressing challenges—and opportunities. CFOs must collaborate with the rest of the C-suite to find the most efficient solutions for their company. The CIO [chief information officer]-CFO relationship is perhaps most important, requiring a delicate balance between prioritizing the need for technological growth and managing the company’s finances. That’s why a company’s CFO and CIO should be aligned on streamlining manual processes and reducing enterprise risk.


Jenn Ryu Headshot




“The automation of…finance and accounting processes can also help organizations attract and retain the next generation of leaders by providing them with opportunities for more meaningful and efficient work.”

—Jennifer Ryu, CFO, RGP




SF: How can you build a more flexible finance function?


Ryu: The most in-demand skills are constantly evolving because of the rapid pace of change. Finance leaders must be more creative in developing or sourcing talent. More organizations have realized they don’t need to own every skill set. This flexible mindset helps organizations adapt to change and disruption. This starts with greater collaboration among CFOs, CHROs [chief human resources officers], and CEOs. We’re seeing C-suite leadership working more closely together to assess their talent strategies and determine where their organization can benefit from an injection of outside talent. At the same time, we see more young finance and accounting professionals striving to add value to the organization, which gives them an opportunity to learn and embrace technology. Organizations that invest in reskilling and upskilling initiatives can provide their people with a path for growth while filling skills gaps.


Of course, any labor-intensive process that requires a lot of time and effort ultimately takes staff away from doing more complex and meaningful work. Many finance functions have automated time-consuming tasks such as manual data entry, invoicing, and account reconciliations. However, these manual workflows still exist, and they pose one of the biggest risks to an organization’s agility. The automation of these finance and accounting processes can also help organizations attract and retain the next generation of leaders by providing them with opportunities for more meaningful and efficient work.


Choucair: Automating the finance function should be the CFO’s highest priority. Investing in the right software puts the proper building blocks in place for finance teams to succeed and avoid major burnout. Whether you are an enterprise or a commercial business, implementing the right software applications can improve your business model. Although it can be overwhelming to assess and choose from the growing number of software applications and vendors, internal preparation and due diligence will ensure organizations find the right solution.


At the same time, the current shortage of experienced accountants increases pressure on the CFO’s office, while employee burnout can increase turnaround times for financial reporting. An uptick in financial errors is a common sign that there’s a need for improvement. Automating manual and inefficient processes in the finance function is a permanent and cost-effective way to prevent burnout, increase financial efficiency, and improve confidence in financial statement accuracy and reporting.


SF: How does the tech evolution change what collaboration looks like for finance teams?


Choucair: Businesses must find new ways to thrive in an increasingly digital-first world. CIOs who were once siloed in their roles as technology providers are now regularly collaborating with the rest of the C-suite. Advances in AI will force the C-suite to align more quickly, creating a more collaborative and forward-looking C-suite that empowers companies to put digital progress first. Streamlined and automated processes, especially those in the finance realm, create the potential for upskilling talent with critical data skills, driving further growth. Upgraded digital capabilities can also help to attract top talent, drive refreshed business strategies, and open the doors for growth and expansion.


Ryu: There’s been an increased focus on digital transformation projects across industries, and many of these initiatives fall within the purview of CFOs and finance leaders. As the role of the finance function continues to evolve, we’re seeing greater collaboration between accounting and finance professionals and other functions. Our research shows that in the past year, 43% of financial decision makers worked more closely with their organization’s IT, while 32% worked more closely with HR.


Omar Choucair Headshot




“Advances in AI will force the C-suite to align more quickly, creating a more collaborative and forward-looking C-suite that empowers companies to put digital progress first.”

—Omar Choucair, CFO, Trintech








SF: How can CFOs influence investments in technology and data analytics?


Ryu: CFOs are uniquely positioned to understand how each digital transformation and technology investment can fit into their organization’s strategy and help them achieve their enterprise objectives. We can take a step back to see how each initiative will impact concurrent transformation efforts, impact people across the organization, and where more data is needed.


Choucair: CFOs should work closely with their CTOs [chief technology officers] and CIOs to drive business intelligence gains across all departments, including sales, customer service, and marketing. Investing in data analytics applications will drive operational gains and engage all stakeholders.


SF: How can technology address pain points or challenges?


Ryu: Technology investments and digital transformation initiatives are helping finance teams improve operational efficiency and auditability. Right now, we’re seeing a wave of cloud migration investments as companies look to refine their financial strategy, speed innovation, and improve resilience. Once the Federal Reserve Board starts to lower interest rates, we might see more companies invest in technology implementations. In fact, 58% of the financial decision makers we recently surveyed said their organizations would prioritize new capital in digital transformation and AI unlocked by a lower interest rate environment. And half said they’d prioritize investment in business process optimization and automation.


Choucair: Digital transformation is crucial for improving profitability in today's rapidly evolving economic landscape. By automating inefficient processes, businesses can permanently reduce operating costs, enhance customer experiences, efficiently scale operations, and mitigate risks. Leaders who prioritize digital transformation are better positioned for long-term profitability, higher confidence in financial reporting, and stronger operating margins.


SF: How else can CFOs strengthen agility?

Choucair: As the economic environment changes rapidly, cash flow and employee engagement should be prioritized. Businesses sometimes translate productivity into profitability, forgetting that employees may be experiencing significant burnout. Taking on the business challenges that arise during periods of volatility is much easier when employees have access to resources that allow them to thrive. Support your team by bringing in quality talent, implementing innovative strategies, and streamlining and automating processes when applicable.


SF: What’s a must-have skill for CFOs looking to impact their company’s strategic technology investment and adoption plan?


Ryu: The ability to translate data into valuable insights is core to the CFO’s role. But it’s also a skill that’s evolving as we take on more of a value creation role. It’s more important than ever to understand where accurate data exists across the organization and how to apply that data to make strategic decisions.


Choucair: The CFO needs to be the company’s main storyteller, outlining its strategy to investors and customers. That’s why CFOs must be able to articulate the finance metrics with the strategy of the company to engage with the board of directors on the health of the business.


SF: What does supply chain disruption mean for CFOs—and how can technology and data analytics help manage it?


Choucair: Advancements in technology are revolutionizing supply chain management by leveraging powerful enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems—including inventory, procurement policies, and automated payments. Efforts to remove tedious manual processes with more efficient, accurate, and cost-effective software solutions are typically led by the CIO and CFO and require open and honest communication between both business functions. CFOs and CIOs should work closely together to ensure the company’s ERP systems work efficiently and can scale to grow with the business. Furthermore, strong and consistent communication channels with vendors and customers are critical for long-term growth.


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