CFOs Eye IT Security, Sell-side Systems

Forrester survey reveals finance executives' priorities for 2003

Cambridge, MA — March 21, 2003 — Improving information technology (IT) security and customer-facing systems are top priorities for chief financial officers this year, according to a new survey by technology consultancy Forrester Research.

In a report on the survey of 152 finance executives at North American firms, Forrester analyst Heather Liddell, along with colleagues Tom Pohlmann and Kristin Badowski, note that nearly half (49 percent) of CFOs cited the improvement of customer-facing systems as a top priority for their company this year, followed by 41 percent who listed boosting IT security as a No. 1 concern.

Thirty percent ranked improve back-office systems in areas like human resources and finance as a high priority, and another 30 percent cited consolidating IT spend as high on their to-do lists.

Forrester's analysts suggested that the CFOs are skeptical of outsourcers, as only 16 percent of the finance executives viewed increasing the use of lower-cost outsourcing alternatives as a top priority. In addition, 16 percent said that improving supplier-facing systems would be a high priority in 2003.

Most CFOs and chief information officers collaborate on setting IT budgets, according to the survey. Sixty-three percent of the CFOs in the study reported that their finance organizations collaborate with the CIO on setting IT budgets. But 25 percent don't work directly with the CIO at all; instead, finance simply compiles budget plans from IT and individual business units.

Eleven percent of the CFOs said they provide little input into their companies' IT budgets, while 1 percent said they actually dictate the IT budgets for their enterprises.

Based on the survey results, Forrester concluded that CFOs are frustrated by technology, but not by their IT shops. Thirty-four percent cite no major challenges with corporate IT, while 7 percent complained they didn't know where their companies' IT dollars were going and only 3 percent reported that their IT shop doesn't deliver.

But CFOs do have gripes with the technology itself: 35 percent said it rarely lives up to its promise. In addition, 13 percent said they see "little value" from what their companies spend on IT.

For the report, Forrester surveyed 152 finance executives at North American firms  70 percent with $1 billion-plus in revenues  to understand their involvement with and priorities for corporate IT.