Key Concerns of CFOs Regarding Information Systems

July, 2003

On July 11, I delivered a presentation at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) Conference in Las Vegas. The main topic of my discussion was ERP and process improvement. I began my presentation by asking the audience, comprised mainly of CFOs and Controllers, about their major concerns, issues, or interests when they think about information systems in their companies.

Though not a formal survey, the spontaneous responses from among the hundred or so participants provides some interesting insight into what is on the minds of these senior business executives relative to enterprise systems. Their responses have been clustered into logical groupings and are presented below.

  • Selection and implementation concerns were the most commonly mentioned items, with 35% of the attendees expressing an opinion regarding these critical processes. Comments such as ” choosing the right ERP system,” “retaining knowledge after implementation,” “on-going support,” show that CFOs still view system selection and implementation as significant undertakings. After many well-publicized failures in the 1990s, this is a good sign.
  • Reporting was indicated in 17% of the responses, with several participants emphasizing the need to get better access to information locked up in ERP systems.
  • Integration issues were indicated by 13% of the attendees, with special emphasis on combining financial and operational systems. An additional 4% mentioned auditing of ERP systems for internal controls, which may indicate Sarbanes-Oxley is part the interest in having good integration between financial and operational systems.
  • Security was a key issue for 13% of these individuals, while 9% of the attendees mentioned ease of use as a key concern. Interestingly, only 9% mentioned cost of IT as a concern, which is surprising considering the audience was almost entirely comprised of CFOs and Controllers. Perhaps it is a sign that software prices have come down, or more likely, that executives are putting more emphasis on the effectiveness and success of systems rather than the pure cost of the technology.