Nearly half of finance leaders make automation technology a key priority  

16th April 2021

New research commissioned by commercial data and analytics provider Dun & Bradstreet has found 45% of 250 UK-based CFOs and finance leaders surveyed are embracing new technologies to increase efficiencies and 43% plan on improving their data quality as they look to increase their ability to manage disruption in 2021.

The survey focused on strategies for 2021 and the influence of the pandemic on business planning, with over a third of respondents (38%) reporting that COVID-19 poses the biggest threat to their business operations this year, more so than geopolitical relations including Brexit (24%), climate change (20%) and government policies (17%). These findings are supported by data from the company’s Covid-19 Commerce Disruption Tracker, which shows that 96.78% of UK businesses have been disrupted this year with 98.39% of sales and 97.79% of employees impacted by the pandemic.

Despite widespread disruption, the survey found respondents’ highest priorities for the year included business expansion and growth (42%) and 41% identified the implementation of enterprise technology solutions such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems as key to improving financial operations.

Over a third of CFOs and finance leaders surveyed (35%) cited automation as one of their highest priorities. Three quarters (75%) are already on this journey, having already either completely or mostly automated their financial operations. Respondents believe there is significant potential benefit to be gained from the greater automation of financial processes such as selected cash applications (45%), order management (40%) and billing/invoicing operations (38%).

Tim Vine, Head of International Finance & Risk Solutions at Dun & Bradstreet said. “Although the pandemic has disrupted the vast majority of UK business, our research showed that finance leaders are prioritising the implementation of technology and automation to support their future strategy.”

“In order to get the most value, finance teams can identify the operational methods and where automation can drive the greatest benefits in order to prioritise investment and increase efficiencies.”

Almost half (43%) of finance leaders surveyed said that data quality was a paramount component of their plans to improve finance operations this year, but all respondents cited managing customer data as one of their most significant challenges. In particular, organisations struggled with:

  • Using data to generate insights with minimal manual work (49%)
  • Maintaining useful customer records among systems (45%)
  • Sharing data across the organisation to inform decision-making (43%).

Vine continued “The pandemic has driven home the importance of data analytics to helping businesses manage various risks and identify future growth opportunities. Data solutions can be integrated across a business to help unify information sources, support digital transformation and enhance finance operations to help manage through a turbulent business environment.”