IBM Survey: Sixty Percent of Finance Executives Struggle to Support CEO Growth Activities

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ARMONK, NY - 16 Dec 2005: The IBM Chief Finance Officers Study of 900 senior finance executives worldwide, launched today, reveals only a third of respondents rate themselves highly effective in supporting the CEO's efforts to grow the company.

The study, developed in co-operation with The Economist Intelligence Unit, finds that at a huge cost to the future competitiveness of companies, almost 50 percent of executives report finance staff are tied up in transactional activities such as processing accounts and tax transactions, with only a quarter of staff focused on decision support -- performance and growth focused activities. Furthermore, respondents state nearly 60 percent of finance organizations do not have robust processes and activities in place to support growth.

"Profitable growth is at the top of the CEO's agenda and is what counts in the eyes of shareholders and financial analysts; however CFOs are struggling to deliver predictive insight out of the colossal amount of data they collect," said Nancy Thomas, leader of IBM Business Consulting Services Financial Management practice. "At their fingertips financial executives have the power to unleash future growth by breaking down complex processes and systems and applying innovative methods to unlock information, provide new fact-based insight and create significant competitive advantages for their companies."

The study also correlates a financial benefit may be linked to the effective analysis of financial information to drive growth activities. Analysis of publicly available financial data from nearly 300 of the study respondents reveals companies with highly effective delivery of performance, risk and growth information have increased revenue growth and are driving more value creation compared to their industry peers with less effective insight delivery.*

Respondents excel at reporting historical financial results and meeting compliance requirements, but many are then unable to unlock, from the exploding volumes of data, the hidden gems of information that could uncover future business opportunities and foresee trends or costly problems ahead of time.

Finance executives stated the three most important aspects of their role included delivering performance insight -- 69 percent; providing insight to grow the company -- 60 percent; and supplying insight to financial risks, 58 percent. Despite these aspirations, the survey finds only 13 percent of executives rate themselves as highly effective in two or more aspects of the role and alarmingly, over half do not rate themselves highly effective in any of these areas. The performance gap is directly linked to fragmented business processes and time consuming transactional activities, which prevent efficient information integration and analysis of the business.

Key Statements from Survey Participants:

"Our number one challenge is to improve the integration and sharing of critical business information between businesses, operations, and technical divisions." -- Finance Operations Executive, Large North American Bank

"We need to break down barriers to sharing key data across and between the other major departments." -- CFO, Large North American Governmental Agency

Additional Key Survey Findings:
Finance function at a standstill

-Transaction focused activities for finance executive teams reduced by only 3 percent since 2003 to 47 percent in 2005.

-Growth focused -- decision support and performance management - activities increased only 2 percent from 2003 to 26 percent in 2005.

Fact based insight, versus 'gut instinct' decision making at a premium

-Almost 40 percent of companies still have separate manual processes and controls to collect compliance data that deliver backward looking "after the fact" reaction to risk events and growth opportunities.

-As a result of fragmented systems, data gathering is difficult and fact-based insight hard to come by, leaving decision-making to intuition. About 70 percent of respondents have not yet implemented process and data standards, pursued process simplification, reduced the number of disparate platforms, rationalized budgeting and forecasting tools or reduced the number of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems enterprise-wide.

Struggle to support the growth agenda

-Nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents indicated that finding and developing people with the appropriate finance and business skills to drive growth a challenge.

-Over half of the respondents indicated that they struggle to deliver analytics to plan, forecast and measure business opportunities for profitable revenue growth.

Key recommendations

Enable insight -- standardize, simplify, then optimize.

-Financial executives must take the lead in standardizing, simplifying and establishing common processes that rationalize the myriad of finance technologies and tools used today to improve the integration of information and delivery of insight.

-Information must be turned from a passive, closed state into an active 'service' that can be leveraged by the organization.

Enhance insight -- Partner for growth and drive a culture of innovation

-Financial executives need to consider business intelligence strategies such as performance dashboards to enable financial information to be used to help drive innovation. In mature markets where business model innovation is required to drive growth in new ways against a tide of nimble market entrants, predictive analysis and information is critical to create breakthrough business designs.

-A dashboard environment, fed by real time data sources, facilitates proactive decision-making and idea sharing by allowing representatives across the company to see the same up to date financial information as the chief executive officer -- in real time. This enables the collaborative, fact based decision making that is needed to enhance business performance.

Financial executives have the power to unleash future growth and support the CEO's growth activities.

The report can be downloaded at

Research methodology and demographics
In co-operation with the Economist Intelligence Unit, IBM conducted the IBM 2005 Global CFO Study of 889 CFOs and senior finance professionals across the communications, distribution, financial, industrial and public sectors in 74 countries. Each sector had a similar breakdown in terms of revenue size, title and scope. The study included interviews with 267 CFOs based in Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America and an online survey of 622 respondents. The online survey was conducted in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Organizations in the study ranged in size from less than $1 billion to over $10 billion in annual revenue, and more than half had annual revenues of $5 billion or more. Nearly half of the respondents had enterprise-wide/global responsibility, with the balance evenly divided between regional, country and business unit responsibility. The IBM Institute for Business Value and IBM Business Consulting Services Financial Management Practice designed, executed and analyzed the study.

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1 * Financial benefit linked to the effective analysis of financial information.