The Conventional, Innovative CFO Into the Calculated (Yet Open) Mind of Senior Finance Professionals

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The Conventional, Innovative CFO

Into the Calculated (Yet Open) Mind of Senior Finance Professionals

Senior finance professionals deal with tough situations daily. From closing the books, collaborating across teams, or choosing the right tools, financial decision makers need to ensure their decision is the best one for the organization.

But what exactly goes through their minds, and what’s the idea behind their decision making process? In October 2016, Hubble conducted a survey of more than 300 senior finance professionals of companies with 100 to 1,000+ employees to figure that out.

The result: As part of their mathematical prowess, finance executives like structured work and fact-based choices. This data-driven, decisive nature permeates from their decision making process down to their daily lives. Yet, they’re also surprisingly open to new technologies, which leads to new opportunities to help them ease their angst.

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KEY FINDINGS

Challenges

  • Overcoming Hurdles: While 64 percent of finance professionals agree that efficiency is at the forefront of their departments, respondents cited collaboration with business leaders outside their finance department as their main hurdle (39 percent), suggesting widespread internal communications challenges across departments.
  • Equally as important, senior finance professionals also found disconnected data to be the second biggest challenge in their department.
  • Financial concerns ranked third, with 38 percent of respondents citing controlling and reducing costs as a struggle they faced.
  • Conquering the Month-End Close: Surprisingly, less than 1 in 5 respondents cite their department is able to process month-end close within five days, with almost a quarter saying they take more than half a month to close out the month
    • To that end, 15 percent of respondents spend 20 days or more on the month-end close.
    • This lag in processing suggests opportunities for tools for automation and increased efficiency.
  • Counting Dollar Bills, Not Sheep: In an open-ended question, when asked what kept senior financial professionals up at night, the majority of responses involved increasing profit and saving money.
  • The second most received response involved security and privacy.

Solutions

  • Investing in the Future: While current processes may be slow, more than half of respondents cited their department was actively investing, especially among larger organizations, where nearly 60 percent of finance departments are currently backing efforts. This investment suggests possible adoption of solutions to streamline productivity.
  • Solutions and Brand Recognition: More than half had at least an Enterprise Performance Management solution (EPM), a Business Performance Management solution (BPM), or a Corporate Performance Management solution (CPM)
  • Thankfully, the majority of respondents reported knowing what these tools were, although there was relatively low awareness for CPMs, with 12 percent reporting they did not know what a CPM is.
  • Choosing the Perfect Tool: Respondents reported they were not married to a single solution provider, with the majority (75 percent) open to using any company for the best solution, rather than relying on a single provider.
  • This preference suggests respondents are more willing to go with a specialist provider for multiple tools and functions, rather than an all-encompassing solution that does not specialize in a certain area.
  • More than half of respondents called out their top three key features for tools being compatibility with Excel, having a user friendly tool (both 61 percent), and speed 58 percent, being the most important features in a solution.
  • Love/Hate Relationships: Excel was the most used tool, with 61 percent of respondents citing they used the tool, far surpassing its runner up, Oracle Business Intelligence, who had 29 percent report they used the tool.
  • While Excel may have the highest market penetration, driven by the impact of its familiarity, it has relatively low satisfaction scores when compared to dominant BI players, including SAP, Oracle, IBM, and Microsoft.
  • These low scores offer opportunities for innovative technology solutions to own the manual functions of Excel-based analytics processes.

Opportunities

  • Technology adoption: More than 50 percent of respondents identify as innovators or early adopters of technology, suggesting there is an appetite and open-mindedness for new technologies that can support their business functions
    • CFOs most closely identified as innovators — the first to a new technology
  • Opportunities in social media: When asked which social media channels senior finance professionals used most, Facebook and YouTube were the social media channels used regularly both in their professional and personal lives.
  • This consumption behavior suggests opportunities for growth and outreach to senior finance professionals on these channels.

Channels

  • Constantly learning: When asked what they liked to watch on YouTube during their free time, how-to tutorial videos was top ranked (25 percent), followed by funny videos (19 percent).
  • Product research: When researching new technologies, the majority turned to a general web search (54 percent)
  • Word of mouth is still critical in the decision making process. More than 1 in 3 would also use networking/peer advice or social media for research.
  • Relying on tried and true channels: More than half of respondents (55 percent) still rely on The Wall Street Journal to keep on top of the latest finance news
    • CFOs and VPs of Finance were the top respondents to this choice, with 49 percent and 70 percent respectively choosing WSJ as their primary financial news source
  • Second to WSJ was Forbes, with 44 percent of respondents
  • Still, the top two sources for financial news are longstanding financial publications, which suggests senior finance professionals stick to what they know as most reliable
  • Calculated comedy: When asked which sitcom they would be their top choice to watch, senior finance professionals chose The Big Bang Theory, a show based on scientists at CalTech.

The Finance Professional Persona

Hubble identified five key personas among senior finance professionals. Of these, the top two prove that finance professionals make structured, data- and fact-based decisions. Those not within the two groups fell into the last three categories, making decisions based on emotions and feeling rather than facts:

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ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The October 2016 study collected responses via an online survey of 330 senior finance professionals, ranging in title from CFO, vice president of finance, FP&A, controller, and analyst. Personas were developed based on cluster analysis of leadership and decision making statements. This research was generated by Hubble in partnership with Morar Consulting.

ABOUT HUBBLE

Hubble® is an integrated suite of performance management apps from insightsoftware.com. It offers reporting, analytics and planning in a single real-time solution that fully understands your ERP. Hubble integrates your critical business systems so users at all levels have access to live data-extraordinarily fast. With this type of visibility, everyone can easily understand, manage and predict the business.

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