BY Fraser Tennant
An increase in data caused by advancing technology is adversely impacting the ability of chief financial officers (CFOs) to deliver effective corporate reporting, according to an EY report published this week.
The report, ‘How can reporting catch up with an accelerating world?’, which is based on a survey of more than 1000 CFOs and heads of reporting of large organisations across 25 countries, reveals that 66 percent of respondents consider technological advances – such as cloud-based systems, data analytics, robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) – to be their number one external reporting challenge – up from 57 percent in 2015.
Additionally, almost one third (32 percent) of the CFOs surveyed ranked their current reporting operating model as “average”, with 56 percent stating that transforming their model – perhaps striking a balance between central control and devolved reporting attuned to local needs – is now a major focus.
“CFOs worldwide are struggling to make the most of the increased volume and speed of data available to them,” said Peter Wollmert, EY global and EMEIA Financial Accounting and Advisory Services (FAAS) leader. “Many are encumbered by legacy systems that do not allow reporting teams to extract forward-looking insight from large, fast-changing data sets. The result is an increasing expectation gap between what boards now look for from corporate reporting, and what CFOs can deliver. Until reporting catches up with technological advancements it will continue to be compromised.”
The report also advances some bold strategies to deal with the corporate reporting issue, including increasing the use of: (i) outsourcing; (ii) managed services; (ii) captive shared services centres – onshore or near-shore; (iv) captive shared services centres – offshore; and (v) centralised centres of excellence.
That said, the report does indicate a preference among CFOs for moving towards a model in which control resides with a head office but with significant responsibilities being assigned to local markets. Twenty-nine percent of survey respondents saw this as the future model, while only 24 percent currently operate a system such as this.
Whatever model is eventually established, CFOs hope that the new reporting arrangements will increase the accuracy and effectiveness of reporting, improve data analytics in reporting to drive forward-looking strategic insight, and provide a more flexible and agile reporting function.
Mr Wollmert concluded: “CFOs are mapping how they see the future of reporting. However, unless decisive action is taken quickly to define a bold strategy and vision for advancing the reporting process, they will continue to fall behind the pace of technology. For CFOs contemplating this journey, the mantras for their reporting function need to be responsive and streamlined.”