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CFOs Increasingly Cite Technology As Critical For Success

Big data, analytics and reducing IT maintenance costs are all priorities for CFOs, according to study.

CIOs and other technology leaders have often complained that other c-level leaders don't value technology and undercut IT's value to the enterprise. However, a new study shows that chief financial officers (CFO) realize that technology is not only important for the CFO, but it is also vital to the success of the business.

The study, titled The CFO as Catalyst for Change, found that CFOs know that newer technologies are needed for their own job, disruptive technology can be a growth enabler and that organizations need to shift away from IT maintenance and integration issues and focus on technology as an innovation. Oracle and Accenture co-sponsored a global research study with Longitude Research and interviewed 930 CFOs from a variety of industries.

CFOs realize that technology is extremely important for their own survival and recognize that it is a critical tool to help them fulfill their role. CFOs ranked technology knowledge second only to industry knowledge when asked where they could improve their skills and capabilities to execute on their cost and growth agendas. Eighty-four percent of CFOs responding also noted that cooperation with their CIOs increased during the past three years, another indicator that technology is a key imperative for the finance suite, according to the study.

"The importance of robust analytics capabilities that deliver the insights to underpin performance management, inform senior management decisions and foster innovation to stimulate growth cannot be understated," said Scott Brennan, a managing director in Accenture Finance & Enterprise Performance, in a press release. "These results also suggest that further integration should occur across silos to paint the picture management can use to see where opportunities exist for additional investment, and to undertake the scenario-planning that can help them respond with greater agility as the business environment continues to change."

CFOs also place increased importance on disruptive technologies as growth enablers. The findings from the joint study underscored the increased importance CFOs place on becoming more involved in understanding and leveraging disruptive technologies, such as big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media as growth enablers. Seventy-nine percent of respondents viewed access to information as a key driver of organizational agility, while 57 percent of respondents viewed investments in big data and analytics as a key source of competitive advantage.

"The CFO has always played a critical role in successful businesses, but what we have seen over the last few years is that the role has expanded beyond traditional finance disciplines to increasingly include a broader business strategy and transformation initiatives," said John O'Rourke, vice president of product marketing, Oracle, in a press release. "As this study shows, CFOs realize that while their role has evolved, there is still scope to expand their influence within the business and further utilize their unique skill set. Technology can play an important part in helping CFOs realize this potential and we hope the insights delivered in this report can help facilitate that process."

And similar to their CIO peers, The CFO respondents also realize how high IT maintenance and operational costs are hurting their organizations ability to innovate and compete. CFOs see a need to shift away from IT maintenance and integration issues and focus on technology as an innovation enabler. When asked about which aspects of their company's technology causes them the greatest concern, survey respondents pointed to the cost of maintenance, the cost of integration and the lack of integration between systems as their top three concerns, followed by data quality and integration. According to the study, this continued focus on passive IT concerns underscores the need for CFOs to shift their focus toward more technology-led innovation and growth projects to help them realize their strategic, operational and professional objectives.

"As CFOs see their zone of influence and responsibility expand, can also be under increasing pressure to fuel their corporate growth engines, as was reconfirmed in this study," said Donniel Schulman, managing director of Finance & Enterprise Performance at Accenture, in a press release. "As the CFO agenda broadens, finance officers are leveraging back office processes, controls and analytics to provide insight and priorities for transformation. This can allow them to successfully step up and fulfill their role as agents of change." Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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