CFOs say manual work reduces skills

DataRailsan FP&A solution for Excel users that recently achieved a $50 million deal Series B financing roundhas released new data from a survey of 200 CFOs, revealing the magnitude of the manual labor problem for the average executive in that role.

Many feel that the extent to which they are engaged in manual data processing prevents them from doing their job to the best of their ability, which often has a serious impact on their personal lives. DataRails conducted the survey to better understand the magnitude of the problem and how its industry-leading software could help.

The role of the CFO has become increasingly important in recent years, especially given the economic uncertainties caused by global events such as the coronavirus pandemic, the ongoing supply chain crisis and the Russia-Ukraine war. FP&A teams have had to adjust their financial forecasts to respond to the seemingly endless array of external shocks, and many CFOs have found they were underprepared.

Amidst these changes, some CFOs are mired in manual work rather than being able to perform the analysis that would allow them to drive strategic decision-making across their organizations. If you want to download the full report, You can do this here.

The struggles of the CFO

Worryingly, 81% of CFOs believe they have the most intense daily manual work of them all in the C-suite. One might expect that there would be almost no manual work for someone in the C-suite because their position means the value of their time is the highest of any in their department.

Respondents to the survey were open about the negative impact their manual workload had on their performance. About 47% agree that manual work impairs their ability to participate in strategic decisions, and this contributed to 37% of CFOs being dissatisfied with their overall performance as CFO. It’s shocking for so many CFOs to believe that their time is being used so inefficiently.

This seems like an obvious area for improvement, but many CFOs are stuck with outdated processes in the short term. For example, a staggering 92% of CFOs are frustrated with the annual budgeting process, which often takes up to three months. In today’s business landscape, the length of this process means that a company’s budget is often out of date by the time it’s ready.

These factors contribute to increased burnout among CFOs and take their toll on the personal lives of many of those surveyed. Almost half (48%) believe they have less time with family and friends because of the busy workload. The DataRails survey shows that the status quo is unsustainable.

Excel as a major bottleneck

Excel is the primary software solution used by the overwhelming majority of CFOs, with 70% of respondents saying they rely on the spreadsheet app for financial planning and forecasting. Despite this, only 18% of CFOs describe themselves as Excel experts. The relative strength of a CFO’s Excel skills can directly impact how much they can automate versus how much manual work they have to do.

CFOs are supposed to influence a company’s most important decisions, so it’s not surprising that 31% admit that working with spreadsheets bores them. It seems incongruous in 2022 that the biggest challenge for 41% of CFOs is still identifying and correcting spreadsheet errors. However, when reports are created manually, there is always a risk of human error.

Overall, the survey found that finance professionals spend around 10 hours per week working with spreadsheets. These break down into budgets, P&Ls, balance sheets and month-end closings – all of which could be largely automated instead.

what can be done

You might think the solution is simply to move to a shiny new FP&A system, but there are three main reasons CFOs prefer to stick with Excel:

  • Despite its drawbacks, Excel still leads the way when it comes to flexibility
  • Your existing models would be wasted
  • The cost of changing and retraining staff would be too high

DataRails recognizes this reality and their software helps simplify financial planning in Excel itself. It empowers CFOs and their employees to accelerate their processes by leveraging connected data sources and AI-powered projections. Because Excel can be effectively used as a front end to a cloud-based database, CFOs can rest assured that the data displayed is current and error-free.

This frees up important time for CFOs to focus more on the analysis and communication parts of their work, where they can make the greatest impact.

When asked how they would spend their time if they had less manual work, 52% said they would spend more time as a strategic business partner, 44% said they would spend more time on analytics, and 36% would do it use more real-time reports. All of these activities make a much better use of a highly skilled CFO’s time than wasting time on a manual process.

Didi Gurfinkel, co-founder and CEO of DataRails, shared his conclusions from the survey in a statement. “While CFOs have emerged as catalysts for change, particularly since COVID-19, the reality is that day-to-day processes prevent finance leaders from achieving their maximum impact,” he said. “Fixing bugs and tracking data, in particular, is pervasive, leading to dissatisfaction with performance and affecting the overall quality of life for CFOs. This constant frustration is detrimental to the individual and prevents companies from leveraging much-needed talent in the CFO’s office.”

Poignantly, 33% of CFOs say they have adopted new technology as a result of Covid. It will be interesting to see how greater acceptance changes their relationship with manual labor for the better. CFOs say manual work reduces skills

Fry Electronics Team

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