BlackLine Blog

May 06, 2021

CFOs Optimistic & Focused on Automation in 2021

Future Of Work
2 Minute Read

Molly Boyle

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We’re almost halfway through 2021, and we’re still living in challenging times. For the past 14 months, we’ve been figuring out our adjusted personal and professional lives as we go along. At the same time, we’re bombarded by ever-changing information that’s often disputed and sometimes quickly contradicted.

Despite the ongoing discomfort and uncertainty, Finance chiefs are optimistic about what lies ahead, and they’re emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic with a unique mindset. When asked about the outlook of their own firms, The CFO Survey found that on a scale of 0 to 100, the average optimism from CFOs was just over 73.

Three more notable findings emerged from these survey results that can guide CFOs to success in 2021.

Make the Shift to Automation

Historically, there hasn't been a strong investment in automation for back office departments like Finance and Accounting. Companies tend to invest their innovation and technology dollars into revenue-driving functions. The uncertainty from this past year has put companies into a more cost-conscious mode—even if they're not actively cutting costs.

As CFOs look ahead to the future of their organization, part of their optimism stems from the fact that shifting to remote work and stabilizing their financial processes wasn't nearly as bad as they initially feared.

They survived, and now their eyes have been opened to a different way of working—a more efficient, value-added, and cost-effective way. The CFO Survey reports that more than half of CFOs are shifting toward automation, and nearly 70% say that all or some automation initiatives are due to the pandemic.

Less hesitation to change and more optimism about the future could give way to new opportunities for the office of the CFO.

Become More Strategic to Enable Business Agility

As we’ve already addressed, that uncertainty isn’t totally behind us yet. And the CFO Survey found that demand, sales, and revenue is still the number one concern for CFOs. To help their companies manage this, they need more real-time data and insights.

Many companies are evaluating new business models to help them survive or grow post-pandemic, and some of the CFO optimism is driven by the pivoting they’ve already done successfully.

For example, in June of 2020, Lululemon purchased MIRROR, a home fitness start-up, expanding from its previous ecommerce focus into technology. Likewise, companies like Nike and Apple have ventured into the healthcare space by tracking fitness information on their wearable devices.

No matter what industry you’re in or if your organization is evaluating M&A, innovation, agility, and adaptability have become keys to survival.

As you evaluate new strategies or transactions, accurate, real-time information to inform decisions is of paramount importance. The more time F&A teams can shift away from repetitive processes to focus on strategy, the better prepared their organizations will be for whatever is next.

Upskill to Add Value

The mergers and acquisitions boom is expected to continue throughout 2021, and as business models change and companies begin to grow their revenue again, they’re no longer planning to hire new accountants to manage the added work. Instead, they’re focused on ways to automate, standardize, and scale so they can better utilize the accountants they already have.

This is very good news for accountants, because it means their CFO is likely focused on elevating their role. This also equips CFOs and CAOs to better optimize their existing talent and effectively hire, retain, and develop top talent.

A New Mentality for Accounting & Finance

As we shift our focus to the future, there's a lot to be optimistic about. The pandemic changed the way accounting and finance works, paving the way for F&A professionals to embrace new ways of working and prioritize automation to help elevate their role.

The shift to virtual wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, and what’s even better is that we have a whole new way of looking at Accounting and Finance going forward. With newfound optimism and automation at their fingertips, CFOs have no shortage of exciting opportunities ahead.

Read this white paper to learn more about effectively building a resilient accounting organization in this time of uncertainty.

About the Author


Molly Boyle