CFOs and Technology: What are CFOs’ tech priorities for 2023 and beyond?
In the age of digitalization, finance teams and CFOs rely increasingly on technology. Automating low-value tasks, using smart spend management software, and updating manual or outdated processes are some actions that companies are taking to update their finance function.
But I wanted to dig deeper: what are CFOs’ tech priorities for 2023? And how are they planning to use technology to streamline finance operations?
Methodology and participants
With the help of CFO Connect, I designed and executed a survey that set out to answer these questions.
Over 400 finance executives from the CFO Connect community participated in the survey. Most of them work for small-to-medium sized companies; less than half work for companies with more than 200 employees.
A majority of respondents are equal to or above Head of Finance in the organizational hierarchy. So in other words, they’re key decision-makers.
They’re the best people to ask about technology in the finance function, because they oversee day-to-day operations within the finance team and they have a hand in strategic business decisions. They have ground floor experience with finance systems and have the long-term outlook to know what should be a priority or not for the upcoming year.
So let’s take a look at the survey results!
Top tech priorities for 2023
The first question revolved around finance executives’ overall technology priorities for 2023. Survey respondents were asked where they wanted to prioritize technology in 2023. The top answers were:
Treasury Management & Cash Forecasting (31%)
Accounting and Spend Management Platforms were other popular areas of prioritization for 2023.
These answers are hardly surprising. The top answers all correlate to parts of finance that are top of mind for companies who are thinking of or already in the process of digital transformation.
FP&A teams are tasked with heavy responsibilities, and automating some of their work, such as data collection and preparation, would save a tremendous amount of time.
Besides saving time, finance executives expect FP&A technology to help them identify trends and patterns, or better collaborate with the rest of the organization.
From the survey results, we see that 41% of finance executives are considering setting up or changing their FP&A software in 2023. This means that there may be an opportunity in the market for SaaS companies who offer great FP&A software solutions to finance teams.
There is probably a good reason why ERPs are high on the priority list for finance executives. We have seen ERPs fall short when it comes to being simple to implement and delivering quick value.
As I mostly surveyed teams from SMB companies (up to 1,000 employees), this number outlines a market gap: there are only a few ERP solutions available for this segment.
There certainly is a market opportunity to create new generations of ERPs for SMB, along with Netsuite or Odoo.
And while it’s a daunting task to implement an ERP, they’re worth the trouble and the expense. With data all in one place, information flows freely between departments, and this increased transparency results in better decision making.
Treasury management/cash forecasting
It’s no wonder that CFOs are interested in prioritizing tech in treasury management, because much like ERPs, treasury management systems will increase transparency and save time and money in the long run.
We are seeing a growing concern amongst CFOs about their treasury that is certainly correlated with the current downturn in the economy.
Being able to monitor the treasury in real time from multiple entities and bank accounts, as well as improving cash flow predictions, are key areas of concern.
From these results, it’s clear that finance executives want to prioritize “big picture” tech projects in 2023. Implementing new systems like ERPs and treasury management will help companies in their digital transformation journey, and will certainly help in the long run. But they are big undertakings!
Focus on Accounting and ERP
Taking a closer look at the Accounting and ERP data, we see that almost half of respondents state that either ERP or Accounting is a priority for 2023. And not only that, the larger the company, the higher up on the priority list ERP goes.
This makes sense – the bigger a company gets, the more it needs an ERP to hold such an enormous amount of data and facilitate transparency between large departments. By nature, they have much more data and would benefit from an ERP.
Generally, as companies grow they have higher degrees of complexity in the following areas:
Quantity of data and data sources
Quantity and complexity of business processes
Larger organizations imply more stakeholders
This complexity requires companies to continuously leverage technology in order to avoid having to scale finance teams' headcount exponentially.
Some CFOs will prioritize switching software in 2023 due to disappointing or insufficient outcomes with their current solutions.
For example, I asked in which areas CFOs were most disappointed with their software, or found it outdated:
Once again, ERP, FP&A, Treasury Management & Cash Forecasting, and Accounting top the list.
Interestingly, 33% of respondents consider accounting software to be disappointing, but only 25% are making it a priority for 2023. There are perhaps more pressing issues that have long-term impacts, such as FP&A, ERP, and treasury management. These bigger projects may overshadow day-to-day functions such as accounting.
The main takeaway here? CFOs’ tech priorities for 2023 are aligned with software categories they find the most disappointing. Finance executives won’t hesitate to switch to better solutions or implement a new system if their current one is disappointing or doesn’t cover all their needs.
When visualized on a scale of priority vs. disappointment, the differences are stark:
Interestingly, finance leaders seem to be satisfied with their spend management platforms, such as Spendesk.
There is strong momentum in the sector because these platforms are being stated as a priority for CFOs for 2023 but they are deemed satisfactory in terms of what they expect.
We can say that these tools have reached a good level of maturity/modernity and companies plan to implement the new generation in 2023.
We see that some platforms are being modernized, such as HRIS (Personio, Lucca, Factorial), Travel Expenses (TravelPerk) and Quoting/Billing Systems (Salesforce, Chargebee, Zuora). And the platforms that are seen as outdated such as Accounting, ERP, FP&A and Treasury Management.
Finally, I wanted to hear from finance executives about their dream tech wishlist. If they had a magic wand, what would they improve?
When it comes to software, respondents’ priorities line up with their overall tech priorities. They want Accounting, ERP, or FP&A software that is seamlessly integrated, automated, and simple. And, as a bonus, they want it to be fairly priced…or at least not too expensive!
Finance leaders want better optimization: programs and systems that work together, enhanced teamwork, and simplified processes. Let’s take a look at a deeper analysis of the top answers:
Integration, automation, ease. Simply put, CFOs want life to be easier and automated, and for disparate programs and services to work together seamlessly.
Automation is a big part of that; automating low-value manual processes frees up time for more labor-intensive issues. It also helps finance team members feel like they’re adding value, not just performing repetitive tasks.
Integration is a key concern that will remain a big challenge even though technology is improving. Why?
1. Legacy systems with big market shares and feature depth have few connectivity options ;
2. New players are facing a high barrier to entry, as requirements for finance tech are significant. This makes it difficult (and cash-intensive) to build viable alternatives to disrupt the market.
Finance leaders’ answers in this survey were illuminating. There are three main priority areas for the majority of respondents: FP&A, ERP, and Treasury/Cash Management.
2023 could be a big year to implement big projects like ERPs and new software solutions.
CFOs and finance executives want simplicity: integrated processes that streamline finance tasks. And perhaps due to the uncertain economic climate, they want to prioritize FP&A and Treasury Management, plus other planning tools that will help them better prepare for and manage the ups and downs of the coming years.
Thanks again to all those who participated in the survey! You can find all the results here.
Charles Tenot is a scale-up executive with experience helping VC-backed companies grow from post-product market-fit to the 50-100M$ ARR range. He started his career in Finance, and then developed skills in Business Operations. He now leads Revenue teams and is passionate about technology and software.
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