Curt Espeland, the CFO at Eastman Chemical, is relying on an ERP system to more effectively integrate Eastman’s $4.7 billion acquisition of Solutia, which is expected to close around mid-year. Espeland says he’s working closely with the company’s chief information officer (CIO) on preparing to implement SAP at Solutia, “particularly since the migration to SAP is a key driver to the timing of the overall cost and revenue synergies of the transaction.”
In fact, a recent survey of CFOs by consultancy Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation shows that IT is becoming a major factor in corporate strategy and CFOs are playing an ever bigger role in deciding which IT to invest in.
“CFOs are probably in the best position to bridge operational areas with financial areas and to enable corporate strategy,” says John Van Decker, research vice president at Gartner. “In many cases, they’re the CEO’s right-hand person to guide the company’s corporate strategy.”
Increasingly, CFOs are choosing to direct IT spending toward business analytics, rather than traditional IT areas such as security and compliance.
Of the 19 business processes that respondents say require better technology support, 15 involve business intelligence, analytics or performance management. Technology that facilitates analysis and decision-making is in most need of investment, according to 57% of respondents, followed by technology supporting collaboration and knowledge management, cited by 52%.
The survey shows 45% of IT leaders report to CFOs, more than to any other executive, and up from 42% in last year’s survey.
The top two technology initiatives for 2013 are business intelligence, analytics and performance management, and enterprise business applications. Initiatives involving mobile technologies jumped to third place, from fifth last year. Data and document management slipped a notch to fourth, while cloud computing jumped to fifth from seventh.
The survey suggests CFOs should be knowledgeable about IT and foster close relationships with their CIOs.
“The advantages to the company from having a strong relationship between the CFO and CIO are enhanced cost structures and returns on IT investments, and the protection of the assets of the company,” says Eastman Chemical’s Espeland.