The CFO's top technology imperatives.

Author:Van Decker, John E.
Position:Technology - Chief financial officer

The chief financial officer (CFO) continues to be a top technology investment decision-maker in many organizations and must continue to be proactive in technology strategy, according to one of the findings in the 2013 Technology Issues for Financial Executives survey, now in its 14th year. Results show that CFOs have increased their role in technology decisions and that the chief information officer (CIO) most often reports to the CFO.

The survey was conducted by technology research provider Gartner Inc. for Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF)--the research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI)--and FEI's Committee on Finance and Information Technology (CFIT). The survey revealed that 39 percent of CIOs report to the CFO, 35 percent report to the CEO and only 15 percent report to the chief operating officer (COO).

This high level of reporting to the CFO demonstrates the need for CFOs to be educated in technology and underscores just how critical it is that CIOs and CFOs have a common understanding of how to leverage enterprise technology. Even in those companies where the CIO does not report directly to the CFO, the CFO is often heavily involved in IT strategies and decision-making as part of a steering committee of executives.

CFOs need to be proactive in making technology decisions for all finance applications, ensuring that they have a financial system that supports the strategic objectives of organizations. CFOs and IT professionals need to understand how the CFO should be involved, to ensure that the right investments are selected in IT that deliver the right benefits based on the organization's goals and strategies.

The following detail the most important IT initiatives and investments based on responses from survey participants.

Business Intelligence and Analytics

FINDING: The majority of technology deficiencies identified in the survey can be addressed by making improvements in business intelligence (BI) and analytics.

The survey asked CFOs to select all the top priorities in their organization that currently need improved technology support and then which one needs the most support. (See the Table, "Need for Improved Technology Support," below.)

The most popular areas include facilitating analysis and decision-making, 59 percent; ongoing monitoring of business performance, 50 percent; creating an effective environment for sharing relevant information, 45 percent; and quality of the data used for business decisions, 45 percent.

In fact, with more than 20 IT areas to select from, all of the top 12 that were chosen can be addressed and improved with investments in business intelligence and analytics.

The survey has uncovered similar results over the past five years, leading one to question why these priorities have not been completely addressed with recent investments in technology.

One explanation could be that many organizations make initial investments in this area, only to discover that they have just addressed the "tip of the iceberg." They then realize that an integrated platform approach to BI and analytics is what is ultimately required, and that these needs will continue to evolve over time.

RECOMMENDATION: CFOs need to identify gaps in their technology approach. Despite their current investments, it is most likely that they...

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