CFOs focus technology investment plans on attracting new AI/ML talent

January 26, 2022

A recent survey by financial and HR software provider, Workday, suggests that CFOs are actively looking for financial professionals with specific skills in AI and ML platforms. CFOs are eager to invest in new tech to attract and retain the best finance talent with artificial intelligence and machine-learning skills. Workday released its Global CFO Indicator Survey, suggesting that nearly 50% of all CFOs intend to invest in new technology services to attract future finance talent within the next five years. A total of 57% stated that are looking for new hires with AI and ML skills or experience. 

The survey consisted of hundreds of CFOs in Australia, Asia, the US and Europe. CFOs are looking for new and creative skills in new talent to strengthen their workforce. Over 40% of the respondents explained that they are focused on analytics and data-storytelling skills within their new hires. These are areas that weren’t necessarily a focus several years ago. Data-confident CFOs represent those that can transform data into critical insights. AI allows CFOs to spend less time on measuring data and more time on explaining what value big data has for a business. 

CFOs are actively looking for individuals who can utilise AI or ML to acquire this information from their data and then communicate the key insights. Telling the story is particularly important, especially if someone cannot explain the data, then no one will listen to you. According to Forrester Research, one in five companies will double down on AI to increase the delivery of their business insights. This year, the reliance on real-time technology, combined with is forecast to increase by 20%, eliminating the inactivity between insights, decisions and business results. Forrester believes the AI market will grow from a current market value of $25 billion to $37 billion worldwide by 2025. Of this study, 15% of non-technology based companies believe they will design and test talent in their AI teams to develop AI-focused services as the technology uptake continues to expand. A few years ago, only the highest tech players were investing in design for their AI efforts. This year and beyond, many non-tech firms will follow a similar path to the likes of Google, Salesforce and Microsoft and allocate a design leadership team for their AI projects. CFOs are using better data management services and upskilling teams to avoid the data skills gap. Nearly 60% of those surveyed by Workday believe their potential to convert data into insights is very high, putting them into a category that Workday would refer to as “data confident” CFOs. 

CFOs and other financially-related members are still far behind other business leaders in terms of utilising technology with customer-focused systems that generate information and data from spreadsheets and data sets. What is critical to many leaders today is having a technology that is simple to use. If it is easy to use then people can focus their time on the important and more creative aspects of their work. 

The Workday survey suggested that 48% were actively investing in customer-focused systems for finance-employee tasks, such as automated accounting and financial planning and analysis. Nearly every CFO in the survey agreed that technology updates would become even more vital for attracting and retaining talent. 

The pandemic has transformed the expectations of CFOs. Today, professionals require reliable information quickly. Using AI and ML to detect unusual patterns helps businesses analyse data and determine what the figures are saying. Attracting, upskilling and retaining talent remains the biggest priorities among those in the survey. 

While technology has become a predominant focus, CFOs continue to be equally focused on the need for diversity and inclusion and ESG from an investment and supportive aspect. It’s an exciting time to be a finance industry professional. Technology empowers people to apply the skills they trained for, and CFOs are actively looking at ways to invest in these new skills and technology.

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