Are CFOs Up to Technology Task?
Technology continues to be a growing factor in businesses’ competitiveness and financial reporting capabilities, but questions are being raised about the technological proficiency of some chief financial officers (CFO), and for that matter, about the technological capabilities of most senior executives, who accordingly, are senior in age.
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"Younger accountants, the ones in their 20s and early 30s, seem to be entirely comfortable with using computers and expect to use computers in their work. The older ones, say in their 50s and up, went to school at a time when personal computers were just not around. Unless [the latter] make a special effort to learn how to use them, they are not necessarily comfortable with them,” Canadian-based technology consultant and writer Richard Morochove says in a recent report on the technology services industry portal E-Channel Line, echannelline.com.
Morochove, who has been a featured speaker at accounting software conferences held in the United States in recent years, says he has noticed that when accountants reach senior positions they tend to feel that they do not need to use information technology and applications. He has observed that some CFOs mistakenly take the position of "'let my assistants do the number crunching and I will review their findings.'”
John Weigelt, a technology officer at Microsoft Canada, speaking in the same report, noted that gaps may exist between companies’ financial offices and information technology departments that could stifle the company’s expanded use of information technology (IT). “In some cases, the financial organization will look at IT as simply a cost and not an enabler for moving forward in business practices,” he said in the same E Channel Line report.
Meanwhile, technology’s growth as a key factor in financial operations is being exacerbated by the intensive reporting requirements from the Sarbanes-Oxley accounting reform law. The regulations have resulted in a whole new wave of applications, such as business intelligence (BI) systems, far more sophisticated than the systems comfortable to financial officers who are not necessarily in tune with high technology.
“The BI solutions have been technically quite hard to use, so rolling them out beyond core, highly trained users has been tough. Several challenges have prevented companies achieving enterprise-wide BI deployments,” Steven Pugh chief executive officer of software company CODA Financials, Inc. in the Americas., said in a panel discussion monitored by the technology publication Business Management, busmanagement.com.
“That has also presented technical challenges in terms of creating appropriate data sources,” Pugh said, adding that such high technology deployment can also be fraught with “the internal politics issue, which causes each department to want its own specialist tools – sometimes with good reason.”
Meanwhile, performance management researchers and consultants Ventana Research, ventanaresearch.org, has predicted that even greater technological insights will have to come from CFO offices as companies strive to speed their ability to transfer critical business intelligence within their organizations.
“Being able to put needed information in the hands of managers proactively and in a timely way, has become a critical requirement for organizations. Unfortunately, most information architectures and systems are not set up to do much beyond e-mailing Microsoft Office documents.”, it says in a recent bulletin.
Ventana further says that companies must be braced to move from “a data-centric" systems to “event-based or semantics-based architectural approaches” that provide greater responsiveness to financial reporting events. It adds “That’s not how most organizations do it today.”