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How Big Data Separates CFO Men From Boys
How Big Data Separates CFO Men From Boys

By Jennifer LeClaire
March 7, 2014 10:19AM

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Finding value in big data is not something all companies are prepared to do out of the box. But a firm like IBM can guide them and provide them the tools that they need to extract the value from big data. You could say that everybody understands the value of the house, but not everybody can build it on his own. IBM is like the general contractor.
 



Most CFOs -- in fact, 82 percent of them -- see the value of integrating enterprise-wide data. The bad news: only 24 percent think their teams are up to the task. So says a new IBM study that reveals a 205 percent increase in the gap between data importance and the ability to leverage its value since Big Blue first looked at the issue in 2005.

Conducted by IBM’s Institute of Business Value and entitled “Pushing the Frontiers,” the study draws from face-to-face conversations with 576 CFOs in companies worldwide. One of the big takeaways from the study is the importance of technology. Although macro-economic and market factors are still vital, tech has moved up from fifth to third on the list of most impactful issues since the 2010 study.

Bill Fuessler, a partner in the Finance, Risk & Fraud group at IBM Global Business Services, noted that the significance of technology and analytical tools in transforming the finance function and broader enterprise has continuously increased in the company’s discussions with CFOs over the past decade.

“Data has always sat in the center of a CFO’s job responsibilities, and CFOs now recognize how insights from big data are helping their company become more competitive,” Fuessler said. “CFOs are being asked to anticipate the future and discover new areas of revenue growth -- we anticipate this will spur a new strategic alliance between the CFO and CMO as they partner to drive the corporate growth agenda.”

All CFOs Not Created Equal

One noteworthy study finding is that some CFOs are more effective in finance efficiency and analytical insight than their peers. IBM has labeled these CFOs “Value Integrators.” The study also identifies another subset called “Performance Accelerators," CFOS who have mastered their core duties so thoroughly that they’re far ahead of their peers.

IBM reports this group has been 70 percent more successful than Value Integrators when measured in terms of revenues and profits generated during the past three years. What’s more, twice as many Performance Accelerators are effectively integrating enterprise-wide information when compared to Value Integrators. Performance Accelerators are also nearly twice as effective in continuously improving processes and developing finance talent.

What’s the Performance Accelerator’s secret sauce? How they use data. For example, the average CFOs rely on spreadsheets and intuition for 66 percent of their work, while 44 percent of Performance Accelerators combine internal and external data to produce insights. That gives the latter group an analytical edge in many areas, including tracking and forecasting supply chain financial data, planning and predicting resource capacity as well as conducting industry and competitor analysis. (continued...)

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