Snap decisions no easy feat

One of the productivity improvements financial officers expect from tech investments is the ability to efficiently extract high-value information, the kind of information that lets business leaders make solid decisions. In fact, management experts agree that the speed and quality of decision-making is a key area in which corporations can differentiate themselves from their competitors.

It makes sense, then, that companies take steps to get a better handle on the quality of the data they accumulate, store and manage every day since the quality of the business decision is only as good as the data the decision is based on.

And while they may be moving in that direction, a recent survey by Deloitte shows they’re missing the mark – by a long shot.

The survey of 385 senior IT and finance executives from Canada and around the world shows that the majority – 82 per cent – of business leaders don’t have ready access to high quality, reliable, useful information on the operational and financial performance of their companies.

One obstacle in achieving better quality information is disparate, non-integrated IT systems and the variability of business processes, according to the study.

“The level of integration of business units and not clearly defining the information required are considered the biggest contributors to poor information quality within corporate Canada,” the study states.

In the past 50 years, companies have invested billions of dollars in information technology to automate their business processes, improve data management and enhance relationships with customers. Despite this, executives are still often at a loss to quickly put their hands on the kind of accurate, timely information they need to make well-informed decisions.

What gives? The study suggests that boosting information quality (IQ) is going to demand a tighter relationship between finance and IT executives, wherein the CFO and the CIO build real knowledge of the other’s discipline.

“When finance comes to understand IT – its capabilities, limits and the role within modern enterprise – and when IT comes to see robust financial thinking as a source of business value, and not just of cost control, companies will be on a path toward higher IQ and sustained operating and financial improvement.

The good news from the survey is that both finance and IT execs recognize the value and return on investment in improving the quality of their management information – making it more timely, accurate and transparent. But knowing how to get there is the challenge, and it’s not one that’s likely to be solved overnight. Unlike the panacea promises proffered by vendors 20 years ago, the data dilemma will be addressed in a step-by-step strategic process that spans a period of years.

Tighter integration of IT systems, enabled through such vehicles as Web services, offers great promise in the quest to turn mountains of corporate data into actionable, quality information. Once a company makes inroads in this regard, we’ll begin to see a improvement in corporate intelligence quotients.

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