To examine the changing role of the CFO, Oracle and Accenture co-sponsored a global research study with Longitude Research and have published their findings in the report “The CFO as Catalyst for Change.”
Longitude Research surveyed 930 CFOs from organizations around the world of varying sizes and industries, and found that:
• The CFO role has become more strategic and influential over the last three years; and
• Opportunity exists for CFOs to drive change across the whole organization, not just the finance function.
To complement the findings and gain deeper insights into the evolving role of the CFO, Longitude Research conducted a series of in-depth, one-to-one interviews with CFOs from leading organizations based in every major geographic region.
The study found that while the overall level of the CFOs’ strategic influence has increased over the last three years (71 percent of respondents), only a minority play a leading role in strategy formulation (34 percent of respondents) or strategy execution (24 percent of respondents), and some obstacles still prevent CFOs from reaching their strategic potential.
The CFO role is becoming more strategic and influential: The study revealed that CFOs’ overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years (71 percent of respondents), with 65 percent of respondents citing an increase in responsibility over setting and determining strategy, and 47 percent indicate that their role in business transformation efforts increased.
A variety of challenges are hindering CFOs’ ability to reach their strategic potential: Although the CFO role’s strategic influence has increased, only one third (34 percent) of those surveyed play a leading role in strategy formulation and an even smaller proportion play a leading role in strategy execution (24 percent of respondents). The challenging economic environment was identified as the biggest barrier (37 percent of respondents), followed by a shortage of time (35 percent of respondents) and the lack of integration between the finance function and other parts of the business (31 percent of respondents).
Some CFOs worry that further cost cutting could endanger growth: While the top priorities for CFOs during the past three years have been profitability, cost management, cash flow and working capital, CFOs recognize that cost levers may become less effective in the future.
CFOs recognize that technology is a critical tool to help them fulfill their role: CFOs ranked technology knowledge second only to industry knowledge when asked where they could improve their skills and capabilities to execute on their cost and growth agendas. Eighty-four percent of CFOs responding also noted that cooperation with their CIOs increased during the past three years, another indicator that technology is a key imperative for the finance suite.
CFOs place increased importance on disruptive technologies as growth enablers: The findings from the joint study underscored the increased importance CFOs place on becoming more involved in understanding and leveraging disruptive technologies, such as big data, cloud computing, mobile and social media as growth enablers. Seventy-nine percent of respondents viewed access to information as a key driver of organizational agility, while 57 percent of respondents viewed investments in big data and analytics as a key source of competitive advantage.
CFOs see a need to shift away from IT maintenance and integration issues and focus on technology as an innovation enabler: When asked about which aspects of their company’s technology causes them the greatest concern, survey respondents pointed to the cost of maintenance, the cost of integration and the lack of integration between systems as their top three concerns, followed by data quality and integration. According to the study, this continued focus on passive IT concerns underscores the need for CFOs to shift their focus toward more technology-led innovation and growth projects to help them realize their strategic, operational and professional objectives.
Webcast: The CFO as Catalyst for Change
Oracle and Accenture will host a webcast to discuss the findings of the study on May 30 at 12 pm. ET. The webcast will be hosted by Andrew Sawers, Financial Journalist and Editor. More information and registration for this event is available at cfo.com/.
“The CFO has always played a critical role in successful businesses, but what we have seen over the last few years is that the role has expanded beyond traditional finance disciplines to increasingly include a broader business strategy and transformation initiatives,” said John O’Rourke, vice president of product marketing, Oracle. “As this study shows, CFOs realize that while their role has evolved, there is still scope to expand their influence within the business and further utilize their unique skill set. Technology can play an important part in helping CFOs realize this potential and we hope the insights delivered in this report can help facilitate that process.”
“As CFOs see their zone of influence and responsibility expand, can also be under increasing pressure to fuel their corporate growth engines, as was reconfirmed in this study,” said Donniel Schulman, managing director of Finance & Enterprise Performance at Accenture. “As the CFO agenda broadens, finance officers are leveraging back office processes, controls and analytics to provide insight and priorities for transformation. This can allow them to successfully step up and fulfill their role as agents of change.”
“The importance of robust analytics capabilities that deliver the insights to underpin performance management, inform senior management decisions and foster innovation to stimulate growth cannot be understated,” said Scott Brennan, a managing director in Accenture Finance & Enterprise Performance. “These results also suggest that further integration should occur across silos to paint the picture management can use to see where opportunities exist for additional investment, and to undertake the scenario-planning that can help them respond with greater agility as the business environment continues to change.”
Of the 930 respondents, 270 (around 30 percent) were from Western Europe, 205 (around 22 percent) from North America, 160 (around 17 percent) from Eastern Europe, 150 (around 16 percent) from Asia-Pacific, 95 (around 10 percent) from Middle East and Africa, and 50 (around 5 percent) from Latin America. Half of the respondents represented companies with annual revenues in excess of US$1bn in revenues, with the remainder at companies with revenues in excess of US$250m.
Accenture (accenture.com) is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 261,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$27.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2012.
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Seema Kalra, Oracle
P: +1 650-506-2925 - E: seema.kalra[.]oracle.com.
Barbara Lyon, Accenture
P: +1 703-947-1838 - E: barbara.d.lyon[.]accenture.com.