Every year, Protiviti conducts its Global Finance Trends Survey to learn finance leaders’ priorities for the next 12 months and beyond.
The findings provide an overview of trends and priorities relevant to finance and technology leaders. Comparisons to prior years’ results yield additional insights about how finance leaders’ focus shifts over time in response to changing economic and business conditions.
This post highlights survey results for finance leaders in businesses using SAP software. The interplay of their priorities this year suggests new directions that unite finance leaders across industries.
Survey and results: What has changed
In the 2023 study, finance leaders in the SAP community continue to shift their priorities, focusing on the ability to garner actionable information from data analytics. It is a trend that touched on many organizational operations, ranging from financial activities to measuring profitability to reporting on closing activities.
ESG metrics and measurement
Take, for example, the new top priority: environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics and measurement. The increased importance of ESG metrics and measurement indicates that survey respondents are reacting to both external and internal pressures to report on the success of ESG programs.
Those metrics prove critical for demonstrating to investors, governing bodies and others how well ESG programs are performing. However, uncovering the actionable truth in the data can be a challenge. Here, those in the SAP ecosystem can leverage SAP’s Sustainability Control Tower and Sustainability Footprint Management and other tools to garner results, such as environmental metrics (emissions, pollution, deforestation), social metrics (diversity, inclusion, social impact), governance metrics (ethics programs, board diversity, corporate governance structures) and many other key measures.
Impact of inflation
The impact of inflation remains a growing concern and has moved up in the rankings to be right behind ESG metrics and measurement. Although we have lived with inflation for some time, leaders are still finding that forecasting the impact inflation is notoriously difficult. Forecasts require making numerous assumptions ranging from cost of goods to overhead to supply chain changes.
Implementing or enhancing financial planning and analysis tools will help leaders prepare for the future and contend with the prospect of rising costs for materials, people and capital. SAP tools such as SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) Planning and Integrated Business Planning (IBP) can help leaders maintain focus on changing business and economic circumstances while weighing the impacts of rising costs within the organization.
Forecasting inflation calls for making assumptions about the expected costs of materials. For example, leaders will now have to anticipate prices several months out with no clear idea about whether the inflation rate will rise, fall or stabilize.
Implementing or enhancing financial planning and analysis tools will help leaders prepare for the future and contend with the prospect of rising costs for materials, people and capital. Aligning financial plans with more sensitive analyses will enable faster and better-informed decisions. The right data, analytics and planning strategies will help leaders respond with agility to the inflation challenges they foresee in the future.
Leaders can maintain focus on changing business and economic circumstances while weighing the impacts of rising costs within the organization. They do so by identifying tools and approaches that support scenario-based planning, analysis and guidance for next-best actions, which empower them with heightened and immediate visibility into their organizations’ operations and financial indicators.
Security and data privacy
Although they are trending slightly downward, security and data privacy remain a major concern. Numerous factors such as legislative changes and new technologies are driving leaders to focus on continuing concerns about data privacy legislation, potential damage to reputation, malicious attacks, and the overall liability associated with protecting both data and privacy within the organization.
Reducing such concerns takes a combination of identifying risks and then reporting on those risks so mitigation can take place. Here, industry leaders can turn to SAP’s Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) suite of products to measure the potential for risk as well as present that information in an easily digestible fashion that can expedite decisions.
Reporting, planning and analysis
Some of the other top concerns facing leaders share a commonality and a somewhat symbiotic relationship. Those concerns, which focus mostly on the ability to analyze, report and plan, include financial planning and analysis, profitability reporting and analysis, strategic planning, and enhanced data analytics. Those concerns fit into a common realm of leveraging data. In other words, leaders are seeking actionable data to make decisions.
Organizations today are awash in data and bringing meaning and clarity to what that data represents continues to be a major concern for businesses heading into 2024. This indicates that leaders will have to better leverage tools like SAP’s Datasphere and Central Finance to centralize financial insights and SAC to deliver the insights needed to make informed decisions.
The changes in the rank of priorities from 2022 to 2023 indicate there has been a shift from planning to taking action and then measuring the impact of those actions. It has also become clear that leaders are becoming more concerned that financial and organizational decisions are not made in a vacuum and seek to fill that vacuum with data and analysis that brings much-needed clarity to numerous business concerns.
The trends reveal that business leaders are focusing more this year on enhanced data analytics, strategic planning, profitability reporting analysis and financial planning analysis, indicating a potential overall goal of garnering better insights to better plan for future challenges.
Businesses are seeking more value out of their data and leaders are recognizing the overall importance of data when it comes to predictive analytics and the realization of the value data can offer when it comes to identifying trends.
This drive for better, quicker data and insights demonstrates a need for leaders to evaluate the available tool sets and deploy the tools that make the most sense and offer actionable information. SAP offers numerous integrated tools that can work in concert to reveal what is most important to decision makers.
However, leaders still need to know which questions to ask of the data, and defining those questions may require seeking additional expertise. It will take a combination of tool sets, expertise and awareness of trends to chart a future that is driven by data and is cemented by using measurable results.