Survey says CFOs need technology that inspires confidence

According to a survey by BetterManagement.com, 81 per cent of respondents believe their chief financial officers are a trusted adviser within their organizations. However, only 25 per cent believe their organizations’ current business intelligence technology supports the strategic demands of

this key role.

Nearly 300 CFOs and other senior business executives (chairmen, CEOs, COOs and presidents), representing various industries, responded to the survey in September that revealed a significant technology gap in the finance department.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that their current business intelligence technology doesn’t allow them to effectively identify and exploit revenue opportunities, evaluate performance across the enterprise or identify operating-level changes that would optimize overall performance. Meanwhile, 81 per cent of respondents realize that their companies expect CFOs to shape strategic directions for the business.

While the majority of respondents were constrained by systems and processes lacking a comprehensive strategic perspective, they did identify the most valuable – and ironically, the most elusive – capabilities in a financial intelligence solution. In the survey, 88 per cent of respondents cited sophisticated analytics and predictive planning as important or very important. However, nearly as many said these functions are difficult to achieve with their existing financial intelligence systems.

The same was true even of the most fundamental attributes of these systems, such as system integration, insight into operations, rapid consolidation, data management and flexibility to adjust to change. Survey respondents decisively affirmed that these capabilities were important yet, at the same time, difficult to achieve.

So while CEOs and the board are looking to CFOs to supply strategic leadership, the finance function is still grappling with some fundamental tactical issues, such as consolidating data from disparate business units and computing platforms, converting that data into a valid foundation for analysis and exploiting that analysis to drive meaningful change.

These results point to some significant disconnects – between expectations and empowerment and between perception and reality. It’s hard to adopt a strategic perspective when the view is blurred or obscured. It’s impossible to generate accurate foresight with financial intelligence systems that are fixed on the past. And it’s a feat to sustain a visionary mindset when days are mired in cost-cutting initiatives, compliance tasks, period end closings and routine reporting.

In the quest for an accurate handle on operations and finances across the organization, executives seem to be constrained by systems and processes that just weren’t designed to generate that kind of comprehensive and verifiable picture.

In particular, the specific capabilities that respondents deem most valuable in a financial intelligence solution are the same ones they perceive to be most elusive. In the BetterManagement.com survey, 78 to 88 per cent of respondents cited sophisticated analytics and predictive planning as important or very important, while nearly as many said these functions are difficult to achieve with their present financial intelligence systems.

To what extent does your current business intelligence technology enable you to effectively identify and exploit revenue opportunities?

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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