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Finance Execs Find Digital Transformation Harder Than They Thought

The story of the enterprise's digital transformation is long and winding, as executives struggle to overcome budget restrictions, integration hiccups and a lack of willingness for change from the higher-ups.

The latest research adds new chapters to this story, highlighting the continuing struggles of technological adoption while, at the same time, showcasing the progress the enterprise has made.

In one report, a survey by treasury management solutions provider Kyriba revealed that treasurers are wasting nearly 5,000 hours every year working with manual spreadsheets. The biggest time-waster linked to spreadsheets in the treasury department is using the tool to establish global cash positions, analysts noted, while treasury-related accounting tasks and cash forecast generation followed close behind.

"There is no question that finance professionals will not stop using spreadsheets in isolation," said Kyriba's Lead Value Engineer Dory Malouf in a statement on the firm's company blog. "But what our numbers show, rather dramatically, is the cost of over-relying on spreadsheets to manage an entire finance function, like treasury. Spreadsheets are only effective to a certain extent, and cannot be counted on to scale to global requirements."

The survey shows the lost productivity that treasurers and financial executives face when continuing to rely on legacy tools like spreadsheets – but perhaps the more interesting point is that executives continue to rely on spreadsheets at all, particularly considering their investments in digitization.

Which brings us to the second study released last week.

Goldman Sachs published a report surveying 100 chief innovation officers at large enterprises, most of whom have revenues of at least $1 billion, reports in The Wall Street Journal said. According to the survey, IT spend priorities have remained about the same compared to a survey conducted last December.

While certain areas of IT spend saw slight increases – including security – Goldman Sachs found that these executives decreased IT spend on Software-as-a-Service by nearly 1 percent, while spend on cloud, as well as business intelligence and analytics, also decreased.

Despite the declines, analysts noted that IT spend remains historically strong, with CIOs expecting more than a third of their workloads to run in public clouds by the end of next year.

Goldman Sachs said the data, however, signals roadblocks in corporates' digitization strategies.

"While we remain bullish on the overall public cloud opportunity, we see an increasing number of companies confronting the realities and challenges of migrating workloads and re-platforming apps," the report concluded.

The publication pointed to a report from Forrester Research, also released last week, that found IT professionals pointing to integration challenges, data security and costs as top hurdles to migrating to the cloud.

Many of these same challenges are cited by professionals recounting their efforts to digitize corporate finance processes in particular.

Enterprise cloud app company Workday published its own report this past week, surveying more than 670 finance leaders across mid-market and large enterprises. The conclusions Workday drew from the survey again emphasized the desire among finance executives to digitize, but also the roadblocks that prevent them from making a change.

The report, "Finance Redefined," found that only 35 percent of survey respondents are extensively using advanced analytics in areas like forecasting and financial planning. The biggest hurdle is integrating finance and non-finance data, a process that requires significant effort in manually aggregating and reconciling data.

"The world of business is only getting more complex, dynamic and competitive," said Betsy Bland, vice president of financial management corporate strategy for Workday. "The time is now for finance leaders to focus on redefining their function across several key areas to continue driving business growth and lead in the increasingly digital economy.

"This requires finance to invest in cultivating the right skills, bridging better connections to other leaders and pushing the boundaries of technology to break down data silos and outpace the competition," Bland continued.



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