Manual tasks, decentralized data, and poorly documented policies are the first signals of dysfunctional financial processes. They waste time, money, and demoralize staff. Unfortunately, many businesses resort to “band-aid” tactics – short-term fixes that fail to stop the bleeding. So, with no further ado, instead of increasing headcount, automate. Why?

One good reason – everyone’s doing it.

According to a 2022 Gartner report, did you know that 80% of CFOs have embraced digital finance functionality? This trend promises a shift in spending that dwarfs talent, supply chain, and fixed asset investments. So, it appears that a CFO building human resources—versus technology support—is going in the wrong direction.

But is that reason enough?

Here’s the thing. Digitalization sounds modern and “with it,” but transforming the business into cloud-based processes and AI technology-centric software is no simple undertaking. Consider that McKinsey says 70 percent of transformation projects fail, with Gartner (specifically about digital transformation) estimating a failure rate of 80 percent through 2025. 

We don’t mean to deter you. There are four key questions and answers explaining what’s needed to fall into the 20% success category:

  1.  Why is there so little success, according to Gartner and McKinsey? A CFO associate told me he knew 50% of the SaaS options he reviewed should do the job. He just didn’t know which 50%. The worst part is that he stopped there, letting the uncertainty overwhelm him.
  2. What does this tell us? Reducing risk and achieving reasonable assuredness calls for genuine leadership. 
  3. Which means what? Encourage the shift to automated processes by relying on systematic planning, structured program governance, and, most crucially, working with the relevant team members and managers to ensure success. 
  4.  The million-dollar question! How do I do that? 
    1. First, use your CFO skills and talents to provide guidance whenever anyone gets stuck or obstructed. 
    2. Second, provide whatever resources they need to complete an initiative on time with team consensus. 
    3. Third, instill a theme of taking responsibility for new actions and decisions. 
    4. Finally, learn from your mistakes. 

In short, you, the CFO, must own and drive the altered value proposition according to the best industry standards. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and critically assess software overlaps. 

Here are three crucial gaps you must close to be a leader – achieve what many of your peers can’t:

  1. Free up cash flow.
    • Gartner pointed out (see above) that process transformation requires investment at a time in the economy where interest rates are high (and will remain so for the rest of 2024). So, in parallel, formulate debt reduction strategies. Of course, this goes hand in hand with a cost-reducing initiative throughout the company and kicking waste to the curb. Then, every digital introduction into the financial processes must align with an ROI evaluation. In other words, P&L considerations aren’t enough. Bring asset employment into the decision arena.
  2. Erase mini-empires and a culture of self-protection.
    • Let the data tell the story, not human biases or beliefs. AI and data analytics demonstrate that information is arguably your most valuable asset, but it has remained hidden like a buried treasure. Why? Manual systems couldn’t begin to mine the insights. Conversely, digital processes and AI drive accurate, groundbreaking analytics – the answer to creating a transparency culture within the business. Of course, you will get comments about the software-generated readings being “garbage in, garbage out,” but as a leader, you need a team that will embrace “data truth.”
  3. Move towards productivity-based KPIs.
    • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) geared to a manual system are worlds apart from a team shifting to automation and AI speed. In other words, as a transformational leader, you must turn the KPI list upside down and shake it out. The ones you replace them with must be pertinent to ROI outcomes (see above), dynamic, and relevant to processes as they come on stream. When KPIs change, old work habits fall apart. Those who adapt will succeed. As the CFO, you must lead these changes by example and guidance.


Process-driven organizations are:

  • The future.
  • Leveraging data to simplify things.
  • Making strategic decisions with confidence.

It takes the guesswork out of financial planning, improves risk assessment, and substantially boosts productivity.