Lessons learned: How CFOs are applying 2020 insights in 2021

From CFO Daily News: We’ve all had to learn to adapt quickly in our personal and professional lives to deal with the realities of the pandemic and help our companies find the best path to prosperity in the “new normal” that emerged in the wake of the initial outbreak.

The changes we’ve implemented have been crucial in keeping companies afloat. However there are new issues arising as remote work continues — and that’s giving CFOs new reasons to burn the midnight oil.

Here are three issues that are top of mind for CFOs as we head deeper into the new year.

Prioritizing digitization when everything is a huge priority

The pandemic demonstrated the critical importance of getting real-time and near-real-time information in front of decision-makers as soon as humanly possible. That spurred a quick investment and reliance on digital transformation. A PwC CFO survey found that 75% will direct more resources toward digital transformation in the coming year.

So, one area of focus that is top of mind for CFOs is the need to set priorities when the pressure to digitize everything is so high and budgets are tight. CFOs are managing by determining which digitization projects are the most important, like cloud-based ERP, and tackling those first. Once the most mission-critical issues are addressed, they’re moving on to exploring other initiatives on the digital transformation roadmap, like FP&A upgrades.

Better FP&A capabilities will enable finance teams to create more accurate forecasts and model scenarios to examine the potential impact of business decisions in 2021.

Hidden toll of our new work-from-home lifestyles

Remote work is a hit with most employees, and many company leaders have embraced it too, including trend-setting tech companies. There’s a growing consensus that a hybrid workforce model will be the norm once the pandemic is fully under control.

CFOs are getting ready for this new workforce, using scenario-based planning tools to explore the impact of a hybrid model as well as other potentially disruptive developments.

But CFOs are also seeing the hidden toll of remote work, including communication breakdowns that occur when colleagues no longer casually run into each other at the office. It turns out much valuable information was exchanged during those encounters that otherwise falls through the cracks.

Another hidden toll: new employees who hadn’t yet absorbed standard business routines and behaviors are unable to pick that up when working from their kitchen tables. Hybrid models will have to solve problems like these, which will take careful planning.

Shifts within the customer base

Another issue CFOs are concerned about are changes within their company’s customer base. They know firsthand how much the challenges of the pandemic have changed their business, and data and customer outreach tell them the same is true of the people and organizations they serve. CFOs are thinking about how changes in consumer sentiment and shifts in customer business operations will affect their company in the long term.

For example, CFOs whose companies shifted to ecommerce to accommodate the spike in online sales are now evaluating scenarios for how that might change when the virus is under control. Those in hard-hit industries like travel are gaming out the possibility that business traveler behavior might have changed permanently. Many are starting to use AI-driven analytics to gain insight and detect early warning signs.

The pandemic came out of nowhere and scrambled a lot of well-designed plans. It made us acknowledge our vulnerability, as human beings and as company leaders.

But difficult times have also taught us just how adaptable we are, and that’s cause for genuine optimism. There’s much to be done, and the way forward is uncertain, but we’ve also learned to live with uncertainty.

As we plan for 2021 and beyond, we’ll rely more on technology to see around corners, and anticipate and prepare for challenges. We’ll make workplace adjustments to maintain our lines of communication and reinforce our company culture. We’ll be there for customers, providing products and services that meet their changing needs, and we’ll learn new lessons and apply them along the way.

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