As the Covid pandemic begins to ease and the UK slowly inches towards a slightly more normal life, British financial directors remain concerned about the state of their departments' ability to lead their organisations forward.
We recently commissioned some research with ICAS and Financial Director magazine to identify what finance leaders are most concerned about as we begin to chart our course in a post-Brexit and post-pandemic world. The research revealed that whilst FDs still have plenty of concerns about how to move forward, there are certainly some reasons to be hopeful.
One area where COVID had a major impact on organisations was highlighting the critical need for digital transformation initiatives, as paper-based finance teams found it almost impossible to function effectively with staff working from home. In fact, 94% positioned digital transformation as critical for their organisation’s future success, and 61% said that increased automation of accountancy processes was among the top influencers on the finance function over the next five years.
However, while finance leaders clearly recognise the need for digital transformation, few of them feel confident in their organisation’s current progress. While just 7% think their department’s digital transformation projects are up to date, more than half - 54% - feel like their initiatives are lagging.
In spite of (or maybe because of) the lack of process that many companies are having with their digital transformation initiatives, there continues to be a continued focus on investment in people and processes. A full 70% of respondents anticipate spending to increase in technology over the coming months and four times as many companies will invest more heavily in technology spend than on new hires.
One of the key issues that many organisations have faced over the past year is maintaining morale and a strong, positive corporate culture. This was reflected by the survey respondents, with 69% citing maintaining morale and 63% citing maintaining corporate culture among the biggest challenges they’ve faced in a work from home environment.
In spite of these challenges, most respondents felt that their teams have adapted well to the current environment. Two-third of respondents said that managing staff time and productivity have not posed a significant challenge for them, and almost nine in 10 said that adapting finance systems and processes has been straightforward - undoubtedly the ability for teams to leverage cloud-based automation solutions has significantly helped this.
Despite all of the challenges that currently face finance teams, there is still a considerable amount of optimism for the coming year. Notably, more than 87% of survey respondents anticipate an uptick in M&A activity in the coming year. Whether this means cash-rich organisations having the opportunity to grow their portfolio, or struggling businesses and their employees being offered a lifeline, a lot of finance leaders could be involved in acquisitions during 2021.
You can see the infographic below. Stay tuned for my next post, where I explain how adopting the right technology can make all the difference in helping finance teams emerge successfully from the twin threats of COVID and Brexit.