CIOs key to new CFO role, says IBM

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CIOs key to new CFO role, says IBM

Ian Grant

CIOs are well-placed to help CFOs improve corporate results by using business analytics to provide guides to better performance.

This emerged from a survey of 1,900 CFOs and senior financial executives worldwide.

The survey found CFOs were more prominent running companies in the wake of the recession. But only half felt they provided effective insight into how their businesses really worked. They found 60% of CFOs planning big changes to remedy this.

Senior management consultant with IBM Global Business Services Alison Curran said CFOs needed to be more efficient in managing their financial data so that they could devote more time and talent to analysing the firm's internal data, also including more external information, such as competitor intelligence, and balancing risks.

"CIOs have a key role in standardising software, data and processes so that there is only one version of the truth, and that it is delivered efficiently," she said. "In terms of helping CFOs to deliver better business insights, CIOs will have to ensure that the tools and clean data are always available."

The IBM study is the largest sample of CFO sentiment during the worst economic downturn in decades. Subjects ranked "providing inputs into enterprise strategy" as their number one priority.

The survey found that CFOs were feeling pressured to help their organisations respond to "the new economic environment". Their priorities for the next three years were to cut the enterprise cost base, make decisions faster and provide more transparency to external stakeholders.

CFOs have hoped to become more analytical to support decisions since 2003 when IBM first surveyed them, but they have made little progress, the authors said.

However they had found a group they called "value integrators" that consistently did better their peers in all key financial metrics, including return on invested capital (ROIC), revenue growth and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation) by enforcing process and data standards, integrating information and applying business analytics.

"Since value integrators enjoy proportional representation across various dimensions of the data sample, their performance signals a better practice and is not just a consequence of industry, geography or company size," the authors said.

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