CFOs have a lot on their plates, but some tasks matter more than others. This year, it seems, the enterprise is relying on finance to deliver some critical objectives. And first among the objectives is supporting the enterprise’s need for information and analytics, according to to The Hackett Group’s Key Issues Study, released last week. That priority is even ahead of “maintaining a competitive cost structure.”

SwissCognitiveThe two digital technologies that finance departments will adopt most broadly the next three years, according to finance leaders, will help meet that objective: master data management (MDM) and advanced analytics .

About 40% of finance executives in Hackett’s recently released survey of global companies with more than $1 billion in revenue say they have already adopted tools for advanced analytics and 46% for MDM. In two to three years, about 80% plan to be using both of those technologies.

“One is useless without the other,” explains the survey report written by The Hackett Group’s Nilly Essaides, Tom Willman, and Jim O’Connor. “Absent a strong foundation of consistent data definitions and processes for how data is stored or changed [a key capability of MDM], there is no guarantee of data integrity. And without data integrity, finance cannot trust the outcomes of analytics solutions, no matter how sophisticated.”

How will finance teams have the time to spend analyzing all the data spit out by business units and provide options and guidance to management based on it? Ideally, time and resources will free up because of the other digital tools being adopted: cloud-based applications, robotic process automation, and cognitive computing/artificial intelligence.

About 45% of finance leaders say they are already using cloud-based or software-as-a-service applications, and 82% plan to do so in the next two to three years. “It’s already gaining momentum in applications such as enterprise performance management, expense reporting, and account reconciliation,” say the report’s authors. “We are even starting to see signs of a shift to ERP in the cloud, but that movement is still in its very early phases.”

Lower cost of ownership, ability to quickly adopt best practices, and faster implementation are the particularly attractive beneficts of the cloud for finance teams, and all are pieces of the drive to become more efficient. […]

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