Fifteen of the top 19 business processes that chief financial officers (CFOs) have identified as requiring improved technology support are largely addressed by business intelligence (BI), analytics and performance management technologies.
These factors make the technologies a top investment priority in 2014, according to a joint study by IT research firm Gartner and the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), the research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI).
The survey results indicated that the top business process area that needs technology investment is to facilitate analysis and decision making--59 percent, up from 57 percent in 2012--followed by the ongoing monitoring of business performance (50 percent), and then collaboration and knowledge management (45 percent, down from 52 percent in 2012).
"Responses to the study are consistent with prior years, with the emphasis on business intelligence and analytics and business applications as the top areas for investment and focus," John van Decker, Gartner research vice president, said in a statement. "With over 20 areas of choices, all of the top 12 that were chosen by CFOs can be addressed and/or improved with investments in BI and analytics."
Corporate performance management (CPM) projects are the highest on the CFO's BI initiatives list, according to the survey. The top four priorities in this area are addressed by CPM suites, including performance scorecard, budgeting, planning and forecast, financial consolidation, and profitability management. Social media platforms scored low in terms of technology initiatives, but mobile, cloud (including software as a service [SaaS]) and information were all considered high priorities. The report noted it would be sensible to include the CFO in mobile device deployment to allow him or her to access finance information and analytics.
"The survey findings would seem to suggest that the CFO prioritizes business applications higher than the CIO does," Bill Sinnett, senior director, research at FERF, said in a statement. "If the CIO does not understand this, then there's a chance the CFO will sponsor his or her own initiatives, and not coordinate them with the IT organization. This demonstrates the trend that BI is becoming less of a CIO responsibility and more of a CFO and line-of-business responsibility."
The report also noted while many IT organizations have made initial investments in these areas, they tend to be tactically focused and don't address the more fundamental issues of data quality and consistency, which require CFOs and finance teams to work closely with BI specialists in IT, as well as chief information officers (CIOs).
"The CFO's influence over IT is consistent and, in many organizations, is growing. We have seen in the study that a large percentage of CFOs own the IT function. This year's responses show that 39 percent of IT organizations currently report to the CFO," Van Decker continued. "This high level of reporting to the CFO demonstrates the need for companies to ensure that their CFOs are educated in technology, and underscores just how critical it is that CIOs and CFOs have a common understanding of how to leverage enterprise technology."