Canadian CFOs Lead Digital Transformation, but Face Challenges Around Automation and AI, Sage Research Finds

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Sage, a market leader in cloud business management solutions, released a report examining how Canadian senior financial professionals are navigating through the risks and opportunities of digital transformation. The study found that while CFOs who embrace emerging technologies and data strategy are better positioned to drive change and growth across their organizations, 74% of respondents consider “modernizing business processes with technology” to be one of their biggest challenges.

The report, CFO 3.0 Digital Transformation Beyond Financial Management, found that Canadian CFOs and senior financial professionals can no longer rely on making decisions based on historical data to respond to a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) business environment. More than two-thirds (67%) of respondents agree that cloud-based, data-driven financial management technologies are key to their future success.

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“Traditionally, a CFO was responsible for reporting, meeting compliance and managing risks using historical data. Today’s CFOs – the technology-savvy CFO 2.0. – are leveraging technology to capture and analyze data as well as performance metrics in real-time,” says Paul Struthers, EVP and Managing Director of Sage Canada. “As automation of financial processes becomes more pervasive, CFO 3.0 will be able to focus their attention on making strategic decisions and future forecasts using AI-enabled predictive analytics.”

Security, Automation, and AI – Three Biggest Concerns

The Sage report shows that as today’s CFOs are expected to provide strategic direction for their organizations, they should better understand the potential, limitations, as well as risks that enterprise technologies can bring. The report uncovers that many senior financial professionals face obstacles on the path to digitization – tangible challenges, such as cybersecurity and talent shortages, as well as organizational misconceptions around the perceived benefits and risks of technologies.

Almost three quarters of financial leaders (74%) see data risks, including fraud and cyber threats, as one of the biggest challenges facing the profession, while 72% say fear of a security breach is the leading reason why they have not yet moved to the cloud. Conversely, despite cybersecurity and risk being a major concern amongst financial leaders, only 20% of respondents see ROI in investing in cybersecurity solutions.

Additionally, most financial leaders (90%) have already begun automating processes to drive efficiencies, and even more (93%), say that automation has positively improved productivity. However, they also feel the need to take a staggered approach to automating additional processes as 88% of CFOs still feel their workforce isn’t ready for additional automation.

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The study also found that despite most Canadian finance professionals (91%) believe AI will be a benefit to the workplace in the long run, many also express high levels of concern and skepticism:

  • 81% of respondents are concerned that AI will take over their jobs;
  • 80% of respondents are worried about the ethics of AI;
  • 82% of respondents are concerned that they do not have the skills to operate AI-powered machines to their optimal capacity.

“It’s critical for CFOs to have a clear understanding of the potential opportunities a technology can bring to an organization, as well as the risks, and impact on the workforce. Bridging the divide between a technology’s benefit and perceived risks within the workforce – as with AI and automation – will be vital as organizations continue to embrace digital transformation,” adds Struthers. “CFOs that take an active role in shaping their organization’s data strategy can better derive insights from the data and their systems to steer their organization.”

On Wednesday, Feb.19 in Toronto, Sage will be hosting a panel discussion and event that will leverage the findings from today’s report to discuss how today’s CFOs can drive tomorrow’s digital and organizations transformation. In addition, senior finance leaders will be present to share their views on the future of finance and the evolving role of the CFO.

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