Last summer Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services (BBRS) launched a survey and research program to discover and analyse the views of C-level and line-of-business executives around the world on what drives superior operational performance, how decision support can be strengthened and what types of new information technology executives are deploying or actively considering to improve their financial and operational performance. The final report, sponsored by SAP, was made available earlier this week.
Bloomberg says that the CFO’s role today has evolved well beyond traditional accounting and compliance and they are now expected to play a central role in crafting strategy and creating value for investors and other key stakeholders. However they do recognize the challenges ahead:
- The majority of financial executives surveyed expect the global economy will grow at a modest 3% per year or less with just over half (54%) expecting their own organizations to remain stuck in a low-growth pattern for all of 2013.
- While 57% see the low level of consumer demand that comes with high unemployment to be the biggest factor hindering a significant pickup in global growth, 53% also cite the sovereign debt crisis as a major concern.
Faced with such challenges, senior finance leaders recognize the need to equip business-unit managers with the financial information and new technologies they need to pursue growth strategies during these difficult times and a large majority of executives regard decision support being important to their future growth:
- 52% have upgraded their financial planning, forecasting and reporting applications to improve their performance management.
- 72% mentioned increased investment in IT to reduce costs, increase productivity and uncover new revenue opportunities as important for their companies with a surprising 46% already involved in big data projects to utilize surging volumes of information.
- Looking ahead, 40% of respondents anticipate speeding decision-making by using real-time reporting rather than batch-processing data
- 37% expect to use predictive analytics within the next two years.
As I’ve written before it is fortuitous that the new generation of information management tools arrived at a time when they are most needed and it is encouraging that the BBRS survey finds the majority of executives keen to upgrade their enterprise performance management capabilities and cement their role as true business partners. That respondents also expect to use advanced tools, such as predictive analytics to anticipate potential outcomes and improved profitability modelling to identify the economic value of various options clearly indicates that finance is ready to roll up its sleeves and work alongside those in commercial roles. In fact the only point of concern is the growing enthusiasm for predictive analytics which seems to be increasingly viewed as a universal panacea that will automatically unlock yet to be discovered growth opportunities. Used appropriately by information savvy analysts working alongside commercially focussed business leaders, advanced analytics can deliver considerable benefits as my colleague James Fisher wrote in this column last week. But we doubt if it’s a secret sauce in itself and its use needs to directed by those with entrepreneurial drive, a questioning mind and sound business judgement.