Finance Leaders Still Need to Do More With Less in 2014

by FEI Daily Staff

Small budget increases, staffing challenges and pressure to drive revenue are combining to make 2014 another challenging year for financial professionals to improve productivity and support the enterprise agenda.


According to a survey by the Hackett Group, the key corporate objectives for financial professionals this year include maintaining a competitive cost structure, improving the effectiveness of organizational decision-making and enabling top-line growth.

"There's no question we continue to see a depressed outlook for finance staffing in 2014, with only a moderate increase in budgets," says Tom Williams, Hackett's finance executive advisory practice leader. "Nevertheless, finance leaders are being asked to find ways to more effectively support business strategy."

Improving Operational Productivity

The Hackett study found improving operational productivity leading to greater efficiencies is likely to be a primary focus for finance in 2014. A strong emphasis on cost management is expected to influence virtually all initiatives, with leaders once again being asked to provide services in the most cost-effective way possible and and to use savings from one area to fund investments in another.

One popular approach survey respondents identified is making more judicious investments in process standardization and technology. The survey says the top technology initiative for 2014 is implementing business intelligence and analytics applications (cited by 74 percent of respondents), followed by consolidating on a common ERP and adding new functionality to existing systems. At the same time, 29 percent of companies study say they expect to simply maintain their existing technology platforms and minimize new investments.

Strategic Sourcing

As part of improving operational productivity, CFOs also expect to explore whether alternative service placement and sourcing strategies can improve efficiency and service quality. More than half of all finance organizations have implemented, or are considering, the use of global business functions or shared services across transactional and knowledge-centric processes alike.

Better Business Collaboration

Developing better business partnerships in finance is the second important initiative that CFOs expect to pursue in 2014, according to the study. An important part of these efforts will include enterprise performance management activities that build on relationships outside of finance, look at processes from an end-to-end perspective across functional lines, and require limited investment in supporting technologies.

Enhancing Talent

Another critical initiative for CFOs in 2014, according to the study, is improving the ability of the finance organization to attract, retain and develop talent. Last year, many finance organizations invested in career development and planning/succession management, and talent retention has also emerged as an important focus area.

For 2014, the Hackett study indicates finance functions are working on their talent management programs. This often includes outlining how finance team members can progress from entry-level positions through the executive ranks.

For example, rotational assignments and pathways from middle management to executive management are defined clearly at a third of the respondents's companies, and will become clearer for nearly 60 percent over the next year, according to the research.

Collectively, these activities are designed to enhance the overall effectiveness of the finance function while preserving its ability to demonstrate its value in challenging operating environments.

The Hackett Group's Finance Key Issues research is based on a survey of executives from over 150 large companies globally conducted in late 2013. A copy of the study is available with registration at: