In early August, Deloitte and IMA released the findings of an important survey of nearly 800 finance and accounting managers,directors, controllers, and CFOs conducted between November 2019 and January 2020. Though the survey was conducted pre-COVID, the insights gathered show finance at the precipice of a huge reset, spurred on by new technology and more pressure to add value while containing costs. The survey, “From Mirage to Reality: Bringing Finance into Focus in a Digital World,” captures critical data on finance’s progress towards intelligent automation and adoption of technologies like robotic process automation, cloud based accounting solutions, blockchain, machine learning, and AI.
All of these technologies have a particularly useful place in the post COVID-19 world, where finance will be contending with the need to reduce costs amid declining revenues, to deliver actionable insights to inform decision-making at the uppermost levels of the organization, and to upskill employees who want the opportunity to focus on more value-added, analytical work. In a prior IMA and Deloitte partner survey, finance professionals expressed frustration at the limitations they felt they faced with reporting tools and a lack of data infrastructure and culture.
Today that frustration is giving way to more optimism about investments in advanced technologies. From the report:
“Through investments in advanced technologies, finance is undergoing a shift from being reactionary and transactional to becoming a more proactive and analytical function with the agility to respond to business needs as they arise. In this survey, we asked respondents how the type of work within finance has changed over the past 18 months. More than half felt that their work had become more analytical and at least somewhat less focused on transactional processing. Additionally, about 92% of the respondents felt that over the next five years, the level of transactional processing will either somewhat or significantly decrease and become more analytical. This feeds optimism that technology will enable finance professionals to spend more time in the realm of strategy and insight.”
Strategy and insight are what management accountants are uniquely suited to provide. Management accountants who have earned the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) have proven their expertise in these areas, demonstrating they have both the analytical and critical thinking skills to tackle the challenges brought on by COVID 19. And IMA offers a host of resources, via its Technology and Analytics Center, specifically related to the technologies with the most impact on the management accounting profession.
As finance and accounting professionals around the world struggle to rebuild their organizations amid a pandemic that has brought the world economy to its knees, thought leaders like IMA and Deloitte are stepping up to provide perspective on how technology can be best leveraged. Now, more than ever, partnering with technology is crucial for finance and accounting. Pre-pandemic there was still debate about its efficacy and value. But post-pandemic there will be no question that the greater efficiency and cost-savings it brings is something every finance and accounting professional should be ready to embrace.