Almost Two-Thirds of CFOs Have Yet to Adopt AI

Despite the best intentions, chief financial officers aren’t ready to plug into artificial intelligence yet.

No doubt, U.S. chief financial officers talk a good game with artificial intelligence, with most studies signaling great interest in the technology among corporate finance leaders.

A case in point. According to a recent study by Grant Thornton, 61% of CFOs say they plan on investing in AI this year. In the same survey, 54% of technology CFOs said “they will use AI to improve their decision-making and insights, while a similar number (51%) said they will use AI to automate routine tasks and processes.”

Yet a new survey from Gartner suggests corporate finance decision makers are walking the walk on AI usage, with the exact same percentage of CFOs either have “no plans for AI implementation or are still in the initial planning phase.” Additionally, 9% of finance organizations “are in the scaling and using phases,” compared to 20% of other administrative support functions, such as HR, legal, real estate, IT, and procurement.

“Despite AI’s potential, most finance functions’ AI implementations have remained limited,” noted Marco Steecker, senior principal in the Gartner financial practice. “As they begin to chart out a plan for how best to prioritize that additional investment, CFOs should partner with their finance leadership teams to compare their current progress against their peers’ and identify concrete recommendations from early adopters on how best to accelerate AI use in their function.”

Three Big Takeaways

Gartner states that CFOs have multiple reasons for not deploying the technology in their own departments yet, even though other departments have a good grip on it. These reasons are at the top of that list.

Cost headaches. According to the Gartner report, about 80% of CFOs believe the cost of buying, installing, and training with AI tools and applications “will rise.” Most finance officers believe that costs will soar more than 10% by 2026. That’s a big reason why finance lags behind other company areas in terms of AI usage.

“This lag is even bigger if with generative AI with just 1% of finance functions having adopted or an intention to invest in the technology,” Steecker said. “This is compared to customer-facing and IT functions where approximately 10-20% have adopted or intend to invest in generative AI.”

Other “distractions.” Chief financial officers who haven’t climbed aboard the AI bandwagon say other priorities are getting in the way of a full-on AI install (lack of technology capabilities, low-quality data, and sketchy usage cases. Also rank high on the excuse list.)

“This speaks to an important aspect of finance leaders’ beliefs about AI, which is that it is a discrete project that would need to be added separately to their function’s transformation roadmap,” Steecker added. “This perspective underappreciates that AI can be a critical enabler of finance leaders’ ‘other priorities,’ such as more dynamic financial planning or close and consolidation efficiency.”

Not sure where best to invest in the finance realm. Many companies steering cash into their finance departments, and just as many are taking a scattershot approach to artificial intelligence rollouts, with developing pilots, accounting support, anomaly/error detection, and financial analysis as the most widely used areas for AI deployments.

“Despite varied uses of AI within finance, the experience has been largely positive. This should be encouraging news for CFOs and other finance leaders contemplating whether they should invest and, if so, where they should direct that initial investment,” added Steecker.

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