Is CFO becoming more powerful than CIOs for IT decision making

Infotech Lead America: Over the past three years, the CFO has begun to wield more power to drive strategic change throughout an organization. The CFO’s responsibilities are no longer restricted to the finance function.

A global research study titled “The CFO as Catalyst for Change”, sponsored by Oracle and Accenture alongwith Longitude Research examines the changing role of the CFO. Longitude Research surveyed 930 CFOs from organizations of varying sizes and industries in every major geographic region.

Seventy one percent of the respondents of the survey said that their overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years. 65 percent of respondents noted increased responsibilities around setting and determining strategy and 47 percent said that their role in business transformation efforts is greater.

The study also revealed that despite the increased influence of CFOs, only 34 percent of respondents actually play a leading role in strategy formulation and a mere 24 percent of respondents were a part of strategy execution.

Taking a look at some of the challenges, 37 percent of the respondents cited difficult economic environment was as the biggest barrier, 35 percent of respondents listed shortage of time as the second greatest obstacle and 31 percent were troubled by the lack of integration between the finance function and other parts of the business.

The top priorities for CFOs during the ­­­­past three years have been profitability, cost management, cash flow and working capital. CFOs generally felt that cost levers may not be very effective in the future.

Industry knowledge is still the topmost area where CFOs would like to improve their skills and capabilities in order to execute their cost and growth agendas effectively. Knowledge related to technology was not as important as industry related knowledge.

Eighty-four percent of CFOs noted an increase in cooperation with their CIOs over the past three years. Recently a joint study by Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) – the research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI) also noted that Business Intelligence analytics also have become less of a CIO responsibility and more of a CFO and line-of-business responsibility.

The study showed how important it has become for CFOs to become more involved in understanding and leveraging disruptive technologies such as big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media to support their growth strategies.

The top three concerns of the survey respondents were the cost of maintenance, the cost of integration and the lack of integration between systems, followed by data quality and integration. These concerns highlighted the need for CFOs to focus more on technology-led innovation and growth projects to achieve strategic, operational and professional objectives.

Seventy-nine percent of respondents felt that access to information is a key driver of organizational agility. 57 percent of respondents felt that investments in big data and analytics will give their organization a competitive advantage.

CFOs are now leveraging back office processes, controls and analytics to provide insight and priorities needed for transformation. As their agenda broadens, there is a need for them to step up and play their role as agents of change.

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