Chief Financial Officers Cite Data Quality/Information Integrity as Top Technology Concern
Information Security Falls to Number Four
EL SEGUNDO, Calif.– Improving data quality/information integrity emerged as the most frequently cited “critical” technology concern (according to 58 percent of respondents) in the ninth annual Technology Issues for Financial Executives survey. The survey, conducted by Computer Sciences Corporation (NYSE: CSC) in association with Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF) – the research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI) – and FEI’s Committee on Finance & Information Technology (CFIT), also revealed that information security, which had held the top position for the past two years, slipped to number four, with nearly 46 percent rating it as critical.
“In many organizations, poor quality data limits the ability to develop decision-quality information and analytics to improve business performance, and it can have other broad-reaching business implications,” said Jerry Boltin, a senior partner and the Business Intelligence practice leader in CSC’s Consulting Group. “CFOs directly feel the impact on operations and performance, and they are increasingly investing in initiatives that will address their concerns. About 70 percent of respondents have plans to improve their information integrity during the coming year.”
This year’s survey identified that most respondents plan to continue the significant levels of spending reported previously to improve their analytical information environments in areas such as profitability analysis, performance measurement and planning/forecasting. However, only about one in 10 respondents reported making significant progress in these areas during the past year. Also unchanged from last year, CFOs reported that the top three areas where their information technology (IT) organizations are deficient include project management; understanding the business/IT relationship; and communication.
Overall IT spending is expected to increase modestly in the next year, and roughly 25 percent of respondents expect the financial program/project share of total IT spending to increase. Approximately 20 percent of organizations with more than $1 billion in revenue anticipate outsourcing some aspect of their IT in the coming year.
The direct use of offshore providers continues to increase, but at a modest rate with only five percent planning to enter into an initial offshore relationship in the near future. “Offshore is starting to close the ‘satisfaction gap’ compared to other forms of outsourcing, as more respondents reported higher satisfaction levels,” said FEI President and CEO Michael P. Cangemi. “But while some capabilities can be outsourced, overall IT strategy remains in the hands of management, particularly the CIO and CFO. Strategy cannot be outsourced, and skillful CFOs will push the organization to derive ROI from IT spending, whether outsourced or in-sourced.”
During the past several years, a growing proportion of respondents have reported constraint in their ability to develop or acquire new applications. This year, 52 percent indicated constraint in discretionary IT spending. The reasons cited vary, but the core issue is earnings pressure. “The same earnings pressure that causes projects to be deferred or cancelled has caused the hollowing out of internal business and IT resources,” said Boltin. “Many CFOs are faced with the daunting paradox of not being able to afford the IT investments necessary to improve business performance, while the investments are necessary to meet shareholder expectations.”
Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) continues to increase the focus on systems integration, and on consolidation and reporting, particularly among large publicly traded companies. Forty-five percent of respondents reported an increase in the cost of SOX compliance.
The survey also examined a variety of additional pertinent issues, including financial executives’ views related to financial management, IT strategies, use of technology applications, return on technology investments, implications of mandates and legislation, systems integration, effectiveness of ERP implementations and use of offshore resources, among others.
This year’s survey results reflect feedback from 653 FEI members – a response rate of approximately six percent. Consistent with previous surveys, only the responses of the most senior member of each organization were included in the results. FERF and CSC also limited the survey population to those currently serving in financial officer roles.
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