The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

As chief financial officers consider technology investment in a rapidly changing business environment—and focus on ways to operate better and more quickly—they are moving beyond talk to targeted action. It’s game on for investing in emerging technologies that will drive business growth and serve as a competitive advantage.

With the stakes higher than ever, companies today are not just allocating more resources for key technology investments. They are also developing the culture required to drive and sustain transformation efforts throughout the enterprise.

Grant Thornton’s US member company partnered with CFO Research to survey 378 senior finance executives from companies with revenues ranging from $100 million to more than $20 billion. The results show that it’s all systems go for investing in emerging technologies. The research reveals that CFOs have significantly increased their technology investments in 2019 compared with last year. The areas that saw significant increases are:

  • Machine learning (21%)
  • Artificial intelligence (17%)
  • Robotic process automation (17%)
  • Advanced analytics (14%)
  • Distributed ledger technology (14%)
  • Optical character recognition (8%)

This is the year in which CFOs will move full speed ahead to invest in technologies to transform the finance function and guide strategic decision-making in their organizations. They’ll focus on pragmatic, targeted technology imple­mentations that can be measured and monitored for results and value. This approach will set the foundation to drive automation that will result in cost savings, process efficiencies, and the agility required for true innovation.

While our study found that system complexity and legacy systems still pose IT challenges, they cannot be used as excuses to avoid long-term digital transformation. By investing in small pilot projects—and successfully auto­mating critical tasks within finance—CFOs can achieve quick wins that will lead to the roll­out of digital techno­logies across their enterprises.

The CFO must be on the front lines, advocating for the changes an organization needs to make to achieve a digital transformation. This means the CFO must shift to embrace agile thinking and commit to a culture of experimentation.


ToruShiraiBio1Toru  Shirai is a partner at the Tokyo office of Grant Thornton Japan, where he provides assurance services to multinational companies. He began his career as a certified public accountant in 2001. When Shirai was seconded to Grant Thornton’s Chicago office for three years (2012–2015), he also supported cross-border business expansion. He has 18 years of experience in public accounting and specializes in ICT and manufacturing.


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