IBM CFO Study Exposes Business Information Gaps

Michael Vizard

IBM today released the results of its annual global survey of chief financial officers, who judging from the study are struggling with how to get the most relevant financial information into not only their own hands, but to the rest of the management team as well.

The most striking thing about the IBM survey is that 74 percent of the CFOs surveyed said that driving information across the enterprise is a major priority for them, but only 39 percent said they were good at doing that. That's all the more perplexing when you think about how many CIOs report into CFOs. It would seem that most CFOs have spent all these years thinking about how to contain IT costs, rather than employing IT as strategic tool.

Obviously, the change in the underlying economy is driving more CFOs to want to at least embrace IT, and business intelligence in particular. This is especially true now, said Doug Barton, IBM worldwide product marketing manager for financial planning management and analytic applications, because more CFOs are now being asked for strategic input into business decisions on the assumption that CFOs have critical information concerning product line profitability and cash flow at their disposal.

Unfortunately, there is a divide between the finance unit and the business units within most companies, resulting in almost two different sets of books. The central finance systems are managed almost in a batch mode that is updated weekly, while various business units update their own systems on a daily basis. The goal, says Barton, should be to have one seamless information system that spans all the business units.

That means the only real question is do CFOs really have the political fortitude and political capital needed to build these systems? For the most part, the answer to that question has been "no." But following the recent economic collapse, IBM at least is betting that the answer is going to be increasingly "yes."

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Mar 9, 2010 11:14 AM Andreas Ronnai Andreas Ronnai  says:

First we have to question ourselves, whether even more numbers crunching will do the trick at all. After all it has been the American€™s virtualisation spleen that has caused the financial crisis. Further  there are a lot of countries, companies an local economies that have done much better over all the years without even half the amount of figures and abstraction you get taught about in mass universities.

Indexes, ratings and rankings and dashboards, if we are really honest, seem to have no other purpose, than the justification of an ever increasing number of average intelligent overhead staff that still tries to look competent in a virtual battle, where it would often be better, they would not say anything.

So I do not think, that even more of finance tools will do any better.  The crisis is not about tools, but about a general lack of trust in our capability to justify and predict the future and our inability to form it.  This is not the tools' fault. It's more a general lack of hands on competences that drives manager into quote driven adrenalin junkies rather than solid navigators with commonly agreed long term plans and stamina to build the future. Just more tools of the same kind will just increase the bean counting index.


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