CFOs Say They Want to Embrace AI, But Other Priorities Come First

Despite the hype, artificial intelligence isn’t a huge priority for finance executives – yet.

It’s not exactly a state secret that corporate financial officers are generally bullish on what artificial intelligence brings to the table.

That data exists already.

Study after study airs the same refrain – CFOs want “in” on AI and view the long-term uses of the technology in a highly positive manner.

This week, a major study shows the finance suite isn’t in a huge rush to get there.

The new survey of 130 finance leaders and 91 administrative support staffers by Gartner shows 61% of finance functions “either have no plans” for AI implementation or “are still in the initial planning phase.”

Somewhat surprisingly, given the massive hype over the technology in the past two years, just 9% of finance organizations “are in the scaling and using phases” of AI, against 20% of other business sectors like human resources, legal, real estate, IT, and procurement that have AI tools up and running.

“Despite AI’s potential, most finance functions’ AI implementations have remained limited,” says Marco Steecker, senior principal in the Gartner Finance 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.”

A Pair of Factors in Play

There are largely two reasons why finance suites are dragging their feet on major AI investments, Gartner reports.

High costs. First, about 52% of finance leaders say the costs of the technology are rising by more than 10% over the next two years, with 80% saying that cost will rise, in general. That likely means that finance functions feel that AI expenditures are just too high to justify right now, especially with corporate budgets so tight.

“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 notes. “This is compared to customer-facing and IT functions where approximately 10-20% have adopted or intend to invest in generative AI.”

Other spending urgencies. Secondly, finance executives say they simply have other priorities in late 2023, even though AI could save time and money on those priorities.

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

The finance suite is starting to show some signs of artificial intelligence use in key areas like accounting support, anomaly/error detection, and financial analysis.

Maybe those experiences will spur CFOs to spread AI across their companies – but that isn’t happening yet.

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

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