CFO Priorities for 2024: AI, Automation, & Strategic Hiring

Megan O’Brien | Content Strategist | May 15, 2024

If the past several years serve as any indication, CFOs will no doubt face their share of rapidly evolving business challenges in 2024. On one hand, global real GDP grew 3.1% and skirted an expected recession in 2023. Technologies such as generative AI grew rapidly, offering promise to businesses ready to invest in their potential. Yet on the other side, the cost of capital remains heightened, M&A dealmaking continues to be low, geopolitical volatility presents a major concern, and talent remains hard to come by.

Looking inside their companies, CFOs are focused on evaluating AI opportunities, improving efficiency and productivity through automation and generative AI, increasing collaboration throughout the business, providing a strong financial base in terms of cash flow and liquidity, and more. They’re choosing to focus on a diverse list of priorities to help build their organization’s resilience and pursue smart growth opportunities.

What Are CFO Priorities?

CFO priorities have evolved in conjunction with the CFO role itself. While the position used to be almost entirely confined to back-office responsibilities—the books and records of the company, financial reporting, and statutory compliance—it has since become much more dynamic and embedded in business strategy decisions.

The CFO still oversees the organization’s financial activities, including being responsible for the finance and accounting professionals who perform operational functions. With the perspective that position provides, the CFO serves as a strategic advisor for their CEO and C-suite peers. The resulting CFO priorities encompass a wide range of areas, including advancing data and analytics use including AI, driving efficiency through automation, and balancing growth with profitability as external conditions shift.

Key Takeaways

  • The role of the CFO has evolved from focusing on traditional finance duties, such as reporting and compliance, to one that has strategic leadership across the business.
  • CFOs are balancing both growth and cost-cutting tactics to build financial resilience and efficiency while still supporting sustainable growth.
  • Current priorities for finance leaders include a strong technology focus as CFOs look to invest more in digital innovation, improve IT infrastructure, drive data analytics initiatives forward, and embrace valuable automation and AI opportunities.
  • To juggle these priorities and give business leaders the data they need, CFOs need access to up-to-date, accurate data drawn from across the organization.

14 Top CFO Priorities for 2024

As CFOs deal with an expanding purview, their to-do list can seem never ending. Here are 14 priorities top-performing CFOs are focusing on.

1. Budget with flexibility

Static budgets are out. CFOs are prioritizing flexible, rolling budgets that can help a company react to business and macroeconomic changes. Budgeting with flexibility refers to a practice where financial analysts create budgets with an expectation that they can be adjusted depending on revenue and cost changes throughout the fiscal year. Scenario modeling plays an important role, with finance teams mapping out possible changes, assessing their probability, and creating what-if responses. By using planning software with advanced capabilities, CFOs can more easily adjust a budget to reflect changes in factors such as sales, input costs, or output so it isn’t rendered obsolete when assumptions shift.

2. Drive growth

Despite some lingering trepidation around the macroeconomic conditions, CFOs are ready to drive growth at their companies. In a survey by FTI Consulting, 74% of the CFOs surveyed predict double-digit growth in 2024, including 33% predicting growth over 30%. However, this isn’t an inclination to “grow at all costs.” Instead, CFOs are prioritizing long-term, sustainable growth and profitability with healthy unit economics and positive ROI.

3.Implement data analytics and AI

CFOs need to be a force in evaluating AI opportunities and pushing to make the right AI investments. With data volumes and complexity increasing rapidly, CFOs are focusing on getting their data analytics and AI initiatives in a place where they can drive value for the organization. Up to this point, the emphasis has been on collecting data—often at the expense of analysis. Now, finance leaders are shifting their focus to deriving insights from the data to drive decisions, using AI not only to collect and consolidate data but also to quickly identify any trends or anomalies.

4. Adapt to hybrid and remote work

While some organizations are mandating a return to work, many will continue to have at least some level of hybrid and remote work going forward. A remote or hybrid approach can prove to be a valuable attraction and retention tactic as talent looks for more flexible work arrangements. This commitment to a hybrid work model requires CFOs to become more intentional in how the finance team works—and that they have the necessary technology and collaboration tools to do it.

5. Manage economic volatility

Monetary policy, cost pressure/inflation, and the health of the economy all still appeared in the top five concerns of CFOs. Capabilities such as forecasting and scenario planning are priorities as CFOs look to build operating models, metrics, and dashboards that can help them spot business shifts early, share that information with their colleagues, and help the company respond faster.

6. Build a well of talent

In a recent FTI Consulting survey, 90% of CFOs planned to spend more time focusing on talent acquisition and retention in 2024 than in 2023. CFOs are prioritizing finding the right blend of compensation, benefits, and technology to bolster employee morale and beat market competition. Especially considering the burgeoning accountant shortage, many finance leaders are promoting investments in accounting software to recruit and retain the growing portion of talent that want to be strategic in their role—not stuck doing manual tasks.

7. Improve cash flow

The increased cost of doing business lately due to material and wage inflation has led companies to keep even more cash on hand, likely needed to head off unexpected business downturns and to quickly seize opportunities. To improve cash flow, finance departments are embracing financial automation, particularly around accounts payable and receivable, to get paid faster. They are also prioritizing technologies that facilitate cash flow forecasting through AI and machine learning, helping organizations analyze even bigger data sets including historical financial information, market trends, and economic indicators.

8. Invest in digital

According to an October 2023 survey by Grant Thornton, 58% of finance leaders were planning to increase their spending on IT and digital transformation. Deloitte’s 4Q 2023 CFO Signals report found 76% of CFOs expect digital transformation and technologies to play a greater role in 2024. As new business models and competitors emerge, finance leaders are prioritizing investing in technologies and automation and building the skills to support their organization’s finance transformation goals.

9. Strengthen compliance

Compliance always tends to be top of mind for CFOs, but an abundance of regulatory changes promises new challenges in 2024. When the volume and pace of regulatory change increases, compliance risk is heightened, which can lead firms to divert resources from core business functions to regulatory compliance activities. To help prevent that, CFOs are looking at comprehensive risk management and compliance software to simplify financial reporting and compliance processes.

10. Focus on cost management

A heightened inflationary and interest rate environment has required better insight into cost management and capital allocation. CFOs are focused on procurement and supplier management processes to look for potential cost savings, such as group buying discounts by consolidating purchasing across the company. Internally, CFOs look to automation to reduce back-office operating costs. And they’re taking a deeper dive to gauge which products, services, and customers are profitable—and which are not—to better understand where costs need to be reduced and where to focus resources.

11. Assess IT infrastructure

IT infrastructure is an area where it’s important to have a strong CFO-CIO relationship. A common pitfall that detracts from technology initiatives is an assortment of disconnected systems that don’t speak to each other. With businesses taking a more connected approach to outperform competition, CFOs and CIOs together are evaluating technology investments and integration capabilities to ensure their platform facilitates that goal. Also, as previously noted, CFOs are focused on cost management, and on-premises data centers can involve a major IT expense, especially when they require a major hardware refresh. CFOs can help CIOs run the finance models on cloud infrastructure versus on-premises options to consider the best price-performance return.

12. Automate finance operations

As they focus on more strategic objectives, finance leaders are making sure routine functions get done painlessly from a finance operations perspective by unifying financial data from multiple accounting systems and automating areas including accounts payable and receivable, the financial close, and expense management. CFOs are also making sure finance managers are trained to use these technologies so they can spend less time on the day-to-day of finance operations and more time providing insight and support to business decisions.

13. Improve supply chain effectiveness

CFOs have been increasingly involved with supply chain oversight as material shortages, extreme weather events, inflation, and war continue to threaten trade and shipping. CFOs support supply chain resilience by investing in technology to automate more of the process and provide cross-functional insight into inventory needs and operational efficiencies. With technology facilitating a more connected approach to planning, CFOs can help better forecast demand, determine optimal order volumes and payment terms, and understand the financial position of suppliers, especially those critical to the continued success of the company.

14. Collaborate across functions

CFOs’ teams provide the budgets and data that drive decisions and track results in every facet of the company. Decisions around staffing, sourcing, acquisitions, capital investments, and any number of other functions hinge on financial data and evaluations, so finance teams must be trusted advisers and watchful stewards. AI will amplify this role, as functional leaders weigh the value and risks involved in embracing these increasingly relevant models and tools. CFOs will partner with IT and risk management teams to check that the company is implementing AI right.

Among the top priorities for CFOs in 2024 are building talent, investing in digital, adapting to remote work, and automating finance operations.

Take Your Priorities from To-Do to Done with Oracle

As finance leaders take on an increasing number of critical priorities, they need a powerful software solution that can facilitate their evolving role. A robust ERP system can go a long way in delivering the visibility, efficiency, and agility that today’s CFOs need to steer their organizations towards profitable growth—even amid economic uncertainty.

Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is the compass to guide the finance team forward. With unparalleled visibility into finances, AI-powered automation of manual processes, real-time business analytics, and automatic updates, Oracle ERP gives CFOs all the information they need at their fingertips. Instead of spending time trying to gather and validate information or complete labor-intensive, manual tasks, CFOs can focus on the priorities integral to their position as a strategic advisor in the company.

CFO Priorities FAQs

What should a CFO focus on?
The CFO’s primary focus ultimately comes down to building financial resilience for the organization. CFOs need to toggle between offensive and defensive considerations as they build up profitability while still pursuing smart growth opportunities.

What are the priority metrics a CFO should always monitor?
Every CFO should be prioritizing financial metrics in the profitability, liquidity, efficiency, valuation, and leverage categories. Some of the most integral metrics to monitor include gross profit margin, current ratio, quick ratio, accounts receivable turnover, earnings per share, and debt-to-equity ratio.

What is the most important problem facing CFOs today?
Concerns around the economy linger despite some improving indicators. For CFOs, this uncertainty and threat of volatility keeps the economy as a top-ranking problem for them to grapple with today.

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