CFOs Increasingly Taking on Oversight of Procurement, Supply Chain

Accenture survey finds Finance requires more flexible operations supported by new processes, content or data and technology systems

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New York — February 9, 2011 — In the wake of the economic downturn, 80 percent of senior finance executives said their scope of responsibilities has expanded, with finance also now overseeing programs in other departments across the enterprise, including procurement and supply chain, according to findings of a new Accenture survey.

The departments where senior finance executives most frequently said they also now manage projects include: information technology (43 percent), strategy and business development (41 percent) and human resources (39 percent). They also mentioned having program responsibilities in risk and customer service (37 percent each), procurement (35 percent), marketing and sales (33 percent), research and development (30 percent), and supply chain management (25 percent).

In addition to the expanded scope of responsibilities, 79 percent of the more than 1,000 senior finance executives surveyed across Asia, Europe and North and South America, said they need more flexibility in their operations to more readily respond to ongoing market changes, and 58 percent of them said this increased flexibility would be needed across their operations for the next six to 18 months.

However, 22 percent of the executives said they would require greater flexibility in their finance operations for a longer period of time — 18 months or more. Fewer than one out of four (22 percent) said greater flexibility would be necessary for less than six months.

"The economic crisis left the corporate finance function stretched by additional responsibilities and rapidly changing market dynamics that require nimble operations to quickly adapt to new business realities," said Paul Boulanger (LinkedIn), managing director of the Accenture Finance & Performance Management service line. "With corporations operating in a more volatile business environment, finance must be integrated across the enterprise and have a strong grasp of overall business objectives so they can provide guidance and early warning to the C-suite when circumstances dictate a change of course."

Consequently, more than three out of four respondents (78 percent) said flexibility is needed in their planning and forecasting, rather than the traditional annual process. More than half of them also said they needed greater flexibility in their cost management (61 percent), transaction processing (60 percent), cash management (58 percent), performance reporting (58 percent), capital expenditure management (56 percent) and asset management (54 percent).

To enable greater market responsiveness, 84 percent of the executives said they need to update their processes, data or content (including analytics), IT systems and/or workforce centralization. Breaking that down, 63 percent of the executives said they had modified or needed to modify their financial planning and forecasting processes, and 48 percent said they had modified or needed to modify their corresponding IT systems. More than half of the executives (53 percent) also said they have expanded or are expanding their content or data (including analytics) in planning and forecasting.

Additional findings from the survey.

  • Half of the finance executives (50 percent) said they are developing a new strategy for their finance organization.
  • 46 percent have increased or are increasing their focus on training and developing finance personnel, and 41 percent plan to do that in the next 18 months.
  • 43 percent have increased their use of shared services or outsourcing in finance, and 40 percent plan to do so in the next 18 months.
  • And, 43 percent have increased or are increasing their recruitment of finance professionals while 36 percent expect to increase their recruiting in the next 18 months.

To assess the state of corporate finance in today's business environment, Accenture surveyed 1,054 senior finance executives, 60 percent of which were CFOs, directors or heads of finance or managing directors of finance, and the remainder including vice presidents of finance or finance directors. Nearly all (97 percent) report to the CEO, president or CFO of their company.

The survey was fielded from October through November 2010 in eight countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Spain, the U.K. and the United States. The respondents work in the banking, communications, consumer goods & services, electronics and high tech, insurance, media & entertainment, pharmaceutical & media equipment and retail sectors. The majority of the companies for which they work (82 percent of them) have revenues of $100 million or more.

Voices from the Blogosphere: For an analysis of this survey from prominent blogger Jason Busch, see here, here and here.

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