Financial execs juggling competing IT priorities

One-fifth say affordability preventing upgrades: Survey
||Last Updated: 06/28/2012

Many financial executives are having difficulty juggling a series of competing IT priorities, especially in a fast-growing environment, according to a study conducted by the Canadian Financial Research Foundation (CFERF) and sponsored by Microsoft Canada.

The responsibility for the IT function falls for the most part under the domain of the CFO in most companies across the country and this is a challenge for CFOs because they are not necessarily experts in that field, said Top issues in IT for financial executives.

To compensate, they need to rely on professionals for assistance in managing IT issues, especially at companies in rapid growth or with IT challenges such as integrating acquisitions of companies with different legacy systems.

Competing priorities, such as International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), tax compliance and regulatory issues serve as a barrier to IT upgrades for 31 per cent of respondents. Meanwhile, one-fifth said affordability was stopping their organizations from upgrading their systems, found the survey of 129 financial executives.

“It’s clear that many financial executives are working hard to supervise an IT function for which they are responsible, but do not completely understand,” said Michael Conway, chief executive and national president of FEI Canada. “Since IT is such a significant expenditure for many companies, it was surprising to find out that many companies reported not having a formal IT plan. Financial executives would likely benefit from developing a formal IT plan, either as part of or in addition to their organizational strategic plan.”

For instance, respondents are either very concerned or extremely concerned with security issues surrounding the use of social media. Also of great concern is:

•reputational risk
•identity management and data security risks
•a perceived lack of control over online content.

“Financial executives are known for being cautious and this study indicates they have so far extended that caution towards relatively recent innovations in IT: Cloud computing and social media,” said Ron Budreau, director of Microsoft dynamics at Microsoft Canada. “Clearly IT issues are emerging topics that CFOs need to become more familiar with to ensure efficiency within their organization.”

Respondents were evenly divided between those with formal plans in place regarding IT spending and those with informal plans. Thirty per cent indicated their company had a formal IT spending plan in place, with about the same number reporting there was an informal one within the overall strategic plan, and 29 per cent saying that planning was done for specific projects and on a case-by-case basis.

The full report can be found here.

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