CFOs plans to achieve autonomous finance within six years

CFOs plans to reach a state of autonomous finance within the next three to six years that will require a significant reshaping of finance team structures to achieve, according to Gartner.

“Most finance leaders, including many CFOs, are ill-equipped to identify and address the rapidly evolving digital skills needed in finance,” said Shannon Cole, senior director analyst, research in the Gartner Finance practice. “Expertise in traditional finance topics, while valuable, does not prepare leaders to train staff to execute on capabilities, such as deploying bots, machine learning, and AI algorithms.”

Autonomous finance is a target operating model that CFOs are seeking to deliver finance capabilities through processes and activities that are partly governed, and majority operated by self-learning software agents that optimize front-, middle- and back-office operations (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Autonomous Finance – Central to the Future of Finance

Source: Gartner (February 2023)

“As more finance resources are directed towards digital transformation, it becomes apparent there is a need for deep process expertise, and for project management offices to provide governance and coordinate these initiatives,” Cole said.

A demand for digital skills is pressuring limited supply, meaning CFOs will experience long times to hire and rapidly increasing pay expectations.

“CFO priorities for 2023 show us that transformation of their function remains very high on the agenda,” said Cole. “By 2025, 80% of new headcount growth in finance will be in new subfunctions rather than traditional accounting and FP&A, requiring new roles and structures.”

Finance IT, for example, is already one of the greatest areas of headcount growth in the function. Gartner experts expect these roles to grow fivefold by 2025 to address the impact of composable business architecture on financial reporting compliance, data mining and management, and decision support coordination.

At the same time, automation will reshape transaction processing functions such as procure to pay (P2P) and order to cash (O2C). Armies of staff in these processes will be replaced by small teams of specialists focused on process excellence, data governance and application management.

“CFOs that effectively lead and navigate transformation will add roles to their leadership team to address analytics and decision support, finance IT and global process ownership,” said Cole. “CEOs will give these responsibilities to whoever can lead the change best, and CFOs will have to compete with COOs, CIOs and CDAOs to retain these responsibilities.”