The CFO’s Technology Imperatives for 2015


The chief financial officer (CFO) continues to have a significant influence over IT investments, more than any other executive.

Each year, members of FEI are surveyed by Gartner, in collaboration with FEI’s Committee on Finance & IT (CFIT) and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), on their plans for technology investment. The results of the 2014 Technology Issues for Financial Executives survey provide significant insight into CFOs' thinking about technology.

There is a Need for More Business Intelligence

For the past five years, Gartner has asked CFOs to identify where there is room for technology improvement and the results are always similar: Business Intelligence (BI), analytics and performance management are the top areas for CFOs' IT interest.

Organizations are still struggling to make progress with BI and analytics. Many IT organizations have made initial investments, but these tend to be tactically focused and do not address the more fundamental issues of data quality and consistency, which require CFOs and finance teams to work closely with BI specialists in IT.

Gartner’s Recommendations:

  • Identify the priorities for BI and analytics and understand that there is no single technology solution for all your challenges.
  • Ensure that the most experienced finance people are deployed to work with IT to build and implement a comprehensive BI, analytics and performance management strategy.

The Nexus of Forces Is Driving an Increased Appetite for Business Applications Investments

Gartner has identified four major technology trends that will drive technology planning, investment and usage: the nexus of social media, mobile, Cloud and information. Organizations are being challenged to adapt as these technologies and the data that result from their adoption and deployment internally and externally with customers, expand exponentially. With the exception of social media, which scored low in terms of technology initiatives, mobile, Cloud (including SaaS) and information are priorities. Gartner believes the change in focus to business applications is due to the improvements that many business applications are experiencing through the Nexus of Forces.

Gartner’s Recommendations:

  • Consider migrating your ERP to a Cloud-based deployment to reduce the need for application operation and management capacity.
  • Establish a prioritization process that balances the workload for support resources responsible for maintenance and project work. Involve the business in prioritizing maintenance and project service requests.
  • Consider outsourcing commodity services to help internal resources focus on differentiating business-oriented services.
Mobile Applications Are Increasing, Particularly in Larger Organizations

The use of mobile devices is fairly new to finance business processes and finance applications. Today, the primary target for mobile will be executives who need finance data in board books, narrative reporting and management reporting.

During the next five years, we will see more financial management functionality being available on mobile devices, but we will not see complete suites available on these devices. To properly support mobility, end-user organizations should monitor their vendors' road maps for mobility, to plan on how to leverage these new capabilities.

In 2013, about 26 percent of organizations forecasted the use of mobile applications within their organization. Mobile forecasts have increased significantly in 2014. Travel expense management, self-service HR and finance, and management reporting lead the forecasted mobile capabilities. Mobile will also be used for workflow and approvals, as is the case with accounts payable invoice automation.

Gartner’s Recommendations:

  • Deploy mobile capabilities where they increase the participation in the financial management process, including workflow and collaborative development of financial budgets and plans.
  • Companies that have a vision for mobile access to financial applications need to pressure vendors to provide this capability and to share their needs for mobile integration.
  • Organizations must take an integrated approach to travel management, including expense reporting, receipt scanning and travel booking/travel planning. End-users expect the same mobile experience with their corporate travel systems as with their consumer-based applications, and this could result in travel administration cost reduction.
  • Although much mobile capability is focused on the executive and a concise set of metrics that can provide visibility into company performance, companies need a vision of how a CPM mobile strategy will be rolled out over a multiyear period.
  • Organizations should develop distinct mobile plans for groups of users, including board members, executives, middle managers, line managers, analysts and input users.
  • Underlying any plan for financial management on mobile devices is the vision for mobile devices and their acquisition by the organization.

Be Sure Your Input is Included in the 16th Annual Technology Issues Survey!

Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), in collaboration with FEI’s Committee on Finance & IT (CFIT) and Gartner, wants your input for the 16th annual Technology Issues for Financial Executives survey. The goal of this survey is to gain the financial executive’s perspectives on the use of information technology within the enterprise. This year, we focus on how you use Cloud, business analytics and mobile devices, in addition to asking about ongoing IT issues.

All survey respondents who provide an e-mail address will be entered into a drawing for $250 cash!

» Take the survey here!