Insights / Finance / Article

What Matters to CEOs and CFOs Right Now

August 25, 2023

Contributor: Jordan Turner

These are their three most pressing organizational priorities.

According to the 2023 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey, CEOs and CFOs are aligned on three key priorities: 

  1. Growth

  2. Technology

  3. Talent

“CEOs and CFOs are aligned in prioritizing growth, technology, and talent as key elements of their business strategy going forward,” says Marko Horvat, VP of Research with the finance practice at Gartner. “Use this information to benchmark your thinking against your managers’ and explore opportunities for greater alignment.”

The top strategic business priorities shared by CFOs and CEOs

No. 1: Meet — or and exceed — growth expectations

CEOs and CFOs are under increased investor and owner pressure to show profitable growth. Forty-five percent of CEOs rank growth among their top 3 strategic priorities, down from 53% in 2022, while 62% of CFOs put it in their top 3, up from 59% in 2022. 

“Balancing future growth investments and CEO expectations while still tightly managing cost and cash flow is the tightrope CFOs must walk in the back half of 2023,” says Horvat. As such, it’s an imperative to encourage profitable growth through capital responsiveness, which requires the ability to:

  • Ruthlessly prioritize projects that align with strategic business priorities.

  • Make significant, rather than incremental, changes to where capital is allocated.

  • Quickly shift capital away from low value to high uses.

Few companies consistently do any of these three things, but those who do see real benefits, earning, on average, 2.5 points more in economic value added than their peers.

No. 2: Keep investing in technology

Both CEOs and CFOs name technology as one of their organization’s top business priorities through 2023 and 2024, but CEOs are a bit more risk-averse when it comes to increasing funding for IT. While many areas of technology are of interest, CEOs and CFOs agree that AI will most significantly affect their business over the next three years.

Still, it’s most likely not in play yet: 80% of finance functions that are using AI have only done so in the past two years. Five forces are driving CFOs and CEOs to unlock the power of AI, specifically generative AI:

  1. Boards and CEOs expect C-suite leaders to protect the organization while driving broad use case adoption

  2. Customers continue to leverage generative AI in their daily lives, which affects their expectations for user experience.

  3. Employees are concerned about job loss, yet may eventually leave organizations where they can’t fully leverage generative AI.

  4. Investors expect new sources of growth and much better margins, placing pressure on leaders to deliver results.

  5. It has the potential to create new markets and/or new lines of business for organizations to expand service offerings and increase revenue.

No. 3: Prioritize workforce issues and address the talent shortage

CEOs rank workforce issues as the second-most-pressing priority for their organizations, while it ranks fourth for CFOs. However, both agree that talent shortages in key areas are damaging to business. Talent is necessary for future growth and profitability. As such, there is a need to improve retention, attraction and talent development. To do this:

  • Offer your employees the opportunity to upskill and develop digital skills — for example, through a digital accelerator program.

  • Create a shared sense of purpose and belonging to improve retention.

  • Revamp job descriptions to make them outcomes-based, engaging, human, skimmable and focused on growth — and attract top-tier finance candidates.

Marko Horvat is a Vice President in Gartner’s research and advisory practice, specializing in topics most relevant to CFOs and finance transformation leaders. Marko has been a CFO, controller, head of financial planning and analysis and led several transformation efforts in many industries, including public, private and nonprofit entities. Marko is a licensed CPA in California, where he resides.

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