Being the best: Inside the intelligent finance function

Insights from our African CFO survey

As the leaders of today’s finance functions continue to work hard to boost their relevance and value add to the business, they are shifting their focus outward to those financial management activities that contribute the most to better business decisions that improve the bottom line. Their biggest challenges lie in creating the efficiencies needed to gather and process basic financial data and continue to deliver traditional finance outputs while at the same time redeploying their limited resources to enable higher value business decision support activities.

With Africa playing a greater role in the global economy, an additional survey which focused on African Finance Executives was performed and then compared to the results of the Global Survey.

Are finance functions improving enough?

Overall, KPMG’s latest Global CFO research shows that finance functions, driven by both internal and external pressures, are improving in many areas and advancing toward the desired future state of an intelligent finance function. The ultimate objective of this finance transformation journey is to become ‘best in class’ in terms of operational efficiency, effective business support and ability to add real value to all its stakeholders.

More than 60 percentof all respondents are generally satisfied with the performance of their finance function. African and CIBM respondents express a similar view

More than 60 percentof all respondents are generally satisfied with the performance of their finance function. African and CIBM respondents express a similar view

The key research findings below offer a snapshot of the current state of finance functions around the world today.

Gaining confidence: Compared to our 2011 Global CFO survey results, respondents’ confidence in almost all of their finance activities has significantly increased. The highest increases are visible in the “order to cash” and “planning and budgeting” finance processes.

Top strengths: Per the Global survey, more than 60 percent of all respondents in this year’s study are generally satisfied with the performance of their finance function and agree it is “highly credible with line-of-business and functional management, the C-suite, the board of directors and other stakeholders”. The finance function’s biggest strength is most commonly the treasury process.

This differs to African and CIBM (China, India, Brazil and Mexico) respondents who feel that their biggest strength lies in processes for general accounting and statutory reporting.

Biggest weaknesses: “Talent management and the technical knowledge of staff” are generally viewed as the biggest weaknesses of the finance organisation.

Respondents name these people-related areas and sets of capabilities as the most difficult to improve. One potential reason for this may be that “collaborating with the human resources group” is the finance activity’s most often cited as a weakness or neutral capability.

This seems to be a common challenge, regardless of geography as African finance executives and their CIBM counterparts viewed these two areas as their biggest weakness as well.

Managing talent: While talent management is difficult to master, respondents rank it as the most important factor to the value-adding success and sustainable competitiveness of the finance function. Over 50 percent of respondents expect to see dramatic changes in the people-related processes of “retaining staff” and “increasing technical knowledge” within the finance function in the years to come.

African respondents feel that processes around risk management and planning and budgeting would see the most dramatic change.

Lean finance: Over 50 percent of global respondents (46 percent in Africa) feel embracing and adopting lean finance in their finance organisationis significantly important. A similar number feel their finance organisations are already somewhat or very skilled at lean finance. “Extensive use of data analytics” and “highly optimised finance processes” are viewed as the most important enablers of a lean finance function.

60 percent of African organisations feel that they are unskilled in the area of lean finance.

Please download the insights here: Insights from our African CFO survey


David Okwara

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