If CFOs Are Keen on BI, Can Data Quality Be Far Behind?

Loraine Lawson
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Here's an attention grabber: CIOs held solo authorization for only five percent of IT investments, according to a recent joint survey by Gartner and two finance-focused groups. Compare that to CFOs, who alone authorized 26 percent of all IT investments.


What's more, the survey found that 42 percent of IT groups report directly to the CFO, with 33 percent reporting to the CEO.


It's a startling finding for those in IT, particularly for CIOs who've struggled hard to make IT a direct report to the CEOs. What does it mean?

"The question is, are financial executives taking the helm of IT spending as a reflexive reaction to the recent economic downturn, or has IT become such a strategic part of the business that it is the business in many cases?" asked Joe McKendrick, an SOA expert, consultant and blogger.


I don't know. It's a good question. Of course, there is a third option: There could be a bit of self-selection bias going on here. For one thing, it's not a general survey. It targets CFOs. Check out the job classifications of the 344 respondents: Sixty-six percent were CFOs, 9 percent were business-unit CFOs. Overall, 95 percent could be considered senior financial executives.

Plus you have to wonder, if IT did not report directly to you, would you even bother filling out a survey about it? Just a thought.

At any rate, 344 is a lot of organizations, particularly when you're talking enterprises, and I'm sure there are plenty of IT organizations reporting to the finance department. So, I was thrilled to see Business Finance, a magazine and website for CFOs and others senior financial professionals, talking about data quality as a potential complication for BI efforts.


It seems finance leaders love to invest in business intelligence (BI). The Gartner survey of CFOs didn't just look at reporting structure; it also asked what types of technology projects finance leaders prefer. The hands-down winner: business intelligence, beating out enterprise applications and even integrated financial management.

IT trades have talked for some time now about the impact of bad data on BI, but data quality and related areas like integration and data governance, can be a hard sell to business. So, anything to educate business leaders - and particularly finance executives - about the impact of data quality on BI seems like a good thing to me.

This article doesn't dive too deeply into the technology-related causes of bad data - mostly, it focuses on data entry issues, which we all know is a big problem. In fact, the article overall is more focused on what the business can do to improve data and that's a good thing for IT, because, frankly, that's where most of the focus should be. After all, that's where most of what Jim Harris calls the "data supply chain" resides.

The article also includes an excellent example of what happened when one health care organization audited its vendor master data. The company thought it had 23,778 active vendors, but after eliminating duplicates, vendor listings without any actual contact details, tax identification numbers, duplicate addresses and tax IDs, they realized they had ... drumroll please ... only 5,495 active vendors. That's a 75 percent reduction in their vendor master file.

If you've been waiting for an opening to discuss data quality with your CFO, this article might be a good way to start the discussion. After all, a CFO is always a good ally, even if you're one of the lucky few reporting to the CFO.

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