November 14, 2013 — Data – and how it’s managed – is becoming increasingly important to how businesses succeed in today’s economy. More and more, companies use financial and operational data to drive business planning, discover new market opportunities, improve administrative processes, and other vital activities. In a recent survey from American Express Company (NYSE:AXP) and CFO Research, Supporting Growth with New Technologies, 96% of U.S. senior finance executives agree they will need to extract much greater value from financial and operating data in 2014. Still, executives surveyed continue to report cautious investment plans in information technology (IT), especially for newer technologies such as big data analytics and cloud storage tools.
When considering where IT improvements could offer the most value to growth plans, nearly half (48%) say cutting costs, while the other half (48%) take a more insights-driven approach, citing effectiveness through analytical tools as the most valuable way IT can contribute to growth. To that end, 40% of surveyed executives say they plan to increase real spending on IT by 10% or more over the next year. However, while many senior finance executives plan to increase IT spend, only 8% plan to increase spend by 30% or more.
“CFOs continue to seek out technology which allows them to improve business performance and increase employee productivity,” said Jay Cary, Vice President, Digital, Global Corporate Payments at American Express. “Mobile in particular is leading the way – both because of CFOs’ familiarity with the technology and for the real-time benefits it offers employees. As data analysis grows in importance, we expect to see similar investments in big data analytics and cloud-based solutions.”
Deploying Mobile Technology
The increasing value of mobile technology is undisputed with executives looking to mobile to help employees better manage business data while on the go. Three-quarters of respondents (76%) say that their companies will need to make better use of mobile technology over the next year. The top three goals cited for mobile improvements are:
Providing employees with better data retrieval capabilities (42%)
Enabling employees to share data and make better real-time decisions (34%)
Providing employees with up-to-the minute access to data (30%)
While senior finance executives have these goals in mind, only 11% report having a formal, enterprise-wide plan for updating their mobile technology capabilities. The majority (70%) say they will take an ad hoc approach or simply plan to implement a general directive on mobile technology.
Big Data and Cloud Investments Lag Behind
Respondents appear to be less certain of how their companies could best use big data and cloud technologies. Perhaps in a nod to the complex and evolving field, only a quarter (23%) of respondents say that making better use of big data analytics will be among their companies’ priorities in 2014. And while 51% of the executives surveyed see opportunities to gain competitive advantage using big data analytics, a surprising 40% do not plan to increase spending in this area over the next year. For now, many finance executives are concentrating on improvements to current platforms and integration with existing tools before taking larger, calculated leaps. In fact, more than half (59%) of respondents say they still consider big data analytics to be a supplementary form of analysis, and that companies should develop their core analytical capabilities first.
Similarly, uncertainties about the use and development of cloud technology continue to be a barrier to investment. Less than a third (28%) of respondents say their companies will increase their use of cloud computing in 2014. This is likely due to the fact that 48% still cite concerns with data security, while another third voice concerns about third-party dependencies. Still, senior finance executives recognize that cloud technologies can offer significant benefits to their companies, including the following:
Greater flexibility (56%)
Cost savings (37%)
Improved productivity (37%)
Time savings (26%)
Senior finance executives do see hope for greater investment in cloud technology in the future, though. More than half (57%) think that five years from now, data-security concerns are unlikely to pose a barrier to adopting cloud-based financial systems.
IT changes companies are most likely to focus on implementing in 2014:
Integrating existing information systems (44%)
Acquiring or deploying new applications or tools (41%)
Upgrading existing systems (32%)
About the Survey
CFO Research Services surveyed 154 senior finance executives based in the U.S. (100 responses) and in the U.K. (54 responses). Respondents represent companies from a wide range of industries. Company revenues ranged from less than $100 million to more than $500 million in annual revenue. The research program, which included an online survey and interviews with senior financial executives, was completed in September 2013.
About American Express Global Corporate Payments
American Express Corporate Payment Solutions provide the Corporate Card, Corporate Purchasing Solutions, and other expense management services to midsize companies and large corporations worldwide. In the U.S., American Express is a leading issuer of commercial cards, serving more than 70% of the Fortune 500, as well as tens of thousands of midsize companies. For more information, visit business.americanexpress.com/us/corporate-card-programs.
About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, foursquare.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/company/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.
Key links to products and services: charge and credit cards, business credit cards, travel services, gift cards, prepaid cards, merchant services, business travel, and corporate card.
About CFO Research
CFO Research is the sponsored research group of CFO Publishing LLC, which produces CFO magazine, CFO.com, and CFO Conferences. CFO Publishing, a portfolio company of Seguin Partners, is the leading business-to-business media brand focused on the information needs of senior finance executives. CFO Publishing has long-standing relationships with more than 500,000 finance executives.
# # #