Survey: Information security tops list of CFO concerns

Von Computing SA

Information security (IS) topped this year"s list of concerns in the seventh annual Technology Issues for Financial Executives survey.

Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC) conducted the survey, in association with the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), the research affiliate of Financial Executives International (FEI).

For the first time, IS emerged as the number one concern related to technology among financial executives surveyed, replacing prioritizing technology investments, which dropped to number two.

Only one in five chief financial officers (CFOs) are "highly satisfied" with their security programs.

ACI Companies recognize how vulnerable they are, says Jerry Boltin, a senior partner and the business intelligence practice leader in CSC"s Consulting Group. "They see the growing number of news articles about customer information being accessed or stolen and they wonder, "If these guys can be breached, how secure are we?"" he said.

Financial executives ranked facilitating analysis and decision-making (business intelligence) as the area most constrained by the lack of appropriate technology solutions.

The survey also found a much higher than expected level of planned investments in analytic and decision support information, particularly among large entities.

Several dozen respondents plan to spend US$10 million or more in the next year to upgrade their analytical environments, with the largest planned expenditure reported as $200 million.

The desire among CFOs to improve analytical environments is driven by an increased need for better and more timely information to assist decision-making and monitor performance -- primarily in response to ever greater competitive pressures, and to meet the stringent reporting and disclosure requirements of Sarbanes-Oxley, says Boltin. The results clearly indicate that senior financial officers are taking their analytical information needs seriously, and taking steps to address them. Some of these investments are 10 times as much as I would have expected.

Entities upgrading analytical and decision-support capabilities in the next year are focusing largely on projects that measure business performance and effectiveness. The top two analytical areas cited by financial executives as planned for upgrades include planning/budgeting/forecasting and management dashboard.

The survey also found that overall IT spending is expected to increase modestly throughout the next year, and companies are planning a number of new outsourcing and in-sourcing (shared services) agreements.

All forms of outsourcing are expected to continue, according to the survey, and the use of shared services continues to increase. Human resources outsourcing was ranked as the top area of planned outsourcing activity, followed by payroll and IT outsourcing, which remained the top two most commonly outsourced business functions.

About 90 respondents rated their outsourcing arrangement as successful. Outsourcing"s consistently high overall ratings from business that use the service help continue the movement, says Boltin.

The survey examined a variety of additional pertinent issues, including financial executives" views related to financial management, IT strategies and the use of technology applications.

Other specific topics explored include measuring the return on technology investments, addressing systems integration issues, assessing the effectiveness of ERP implementations and evaluating the use of offshore IT.