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Treasury Technology

C-Suites Keen on Disrupter Tech

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March 02, 2017

But finance functions treading more cautiously.

Distributed ledgerChief Financial Officers are more apt to see their organizations undergoing major IT transformations than other C-Suite executives, but they report a more conservative approach to adopting new technology.

Research firm Protiviti provided iTreasurer with a slice of finance executives’ responses to its recent Annual Technology Trends and Benchmarks Study that interviewed nearly 400 C-Suite executives, 15% of which were CFOs. Titled “From Cloud, Mobile, Social, IoT and Analytics to Digitization and Cybersecurity,” the study revealed that top executives overall are seeking to shift more of their technology toward leveraging technology disruptors, including cloud services, digitization and blockchain technology. The aim is to innovate their business models to deliver greater returns, but the complexity and limited technology budgets still remain significant barriers for many organizations.

Finance executives did not stray far from the C-suite pack in terms of their responses to the surveys detailed questions, but some differences provide insight into the role of finance departments today and the challenges they face. For example, 57% of CFOs compared to 54% of executives overall said their organizations were undergoing major IT transformations. Ed Page, managing director at Protiviti and head of its technology consulting practiced, said one factor for the difference may be that finance typically has insight into the entire organization.

“Finance is one of the roles in an organization that has broad purview. It controls the dollars and sees IT spending from the catbird seat,” Mr. Page said.

CFOs also approximated the duration of the IT transformation to be shorter than C-Suite executives overall, with 66% of finance executives estimating a duration of 12 months or less compared to 56% of the full C-suite, and 27% saying six months or less compared to 21%.

“Speed and agility is a growing concern, and we’re seeing that across all executive roles, and it looks like CFOs are embracing that even faster than others,” Mr. Page said.

Protiviti notes that the C-Suite overall is trying to shift more and more of their companies’ technology toward leveraging technology disruptors to deliver greater returns, but complexity of the technology and limited technology budgets remain significant barriers to the rate of adoption. That appears to be especially true from the eyes of CFOs.

For example, finance executives are less likely to report that applications, infrastructure and/or platforms are now in the cloud, with only 16% saying 30% or more are in the cloud while 27% of C-suite executives overall say so. The largest percentage of CFOs, 32%, says only 5% to 10% of those aspects of their companies are in the cloud, while the largest percentage of C-suite executives, 23%, say 10% to 20% are in the cloud, suggesting finance executives see cloud adoption progressing at a slower pace.

In fact, only 58% of CFOs said their organizations were focusing on and investing in cloud adoption, compared to 64% of C-suite executives overall, while 36% of CFOs said their companies were not investing in the technology, compared to 30% overall. Perhaps unsurprisingly, CFOs saw cost as the primary barrier to adoption of cloud technology, with security coming in second, whereas C-suite executives overall cited security as just as big a barrier as cost.

The tables are turned in terms of technology adoption, however, when it comes to investing in digitization—the transformation of an organization’ functions and processes into digital form. Sixty percent of CFOs reported that their organizations are focusing on and investing in digitization, while a lesser 57% overall said so.

A significantly higher percentage of CFOs saw their overall IT spend/budget increased this year compared to last, with 81% of CFOs reporting an increase compared 71% of C-suite executives overall. Only 9% of C-suite executives saw a decrease in IT spend this year compared to last, but no CFOs reported such a decrease.

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