For years, the finance function became more and more involved in strategic decision-making, but then the global recession led many finance teams to refocus on cost management and cash flow concerns. Now that the economy is recovering, what are finance managers' top priorities? Longitude Research, commissioned by Accenture and Oracle, surveyed 930 CFOs across North America, Europe, Asia, and Latin America to answer that question.

The good news for finance executives is that 71 percent have seen an increase in their overall strategic influence over the past three years, while only 2 percent have seen a decrease. Many respondents are getting more involved in setting and determining strategy (65 percent), business transformation (47 percent), and executing strategic choices (36 percent). Thirty-one percent said their influence over HR has grown in the past three years, while 13 percent said it has shrunk. However, some companies are removing IT responsibilities from the purview of finance: Slightly more respondents have seen their influence over IT shrink (26 percent) than grow (25 percent).

Although they report that their overall strategic influence is growing, CFOs spend most of their time helping the business meet day-to-day needs in a tight economy. When asked to identify their top three priorities over the past three years, the largest proportions of respondents selected profitability and cost management (53 percent) and cash flow and working capital (50 percent), followed by risk management and compliance issues.

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