CFOs back IT spend but do their big data and cloud views add up?

Although many senior finance executives are planning double-digit rises for IT spending next year, there's a difference of views among the money men about where the funds should go.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

CFOs are upbeat about IT spending next year. But although most say their company must get more value from finance and operating data, they can't agree on how to spend on the analytics and big-data technology to do it.

Four in 10 of the US and UK senior finance executives quizzed by American Express are planning to increase IT spending in 2014 by at least 10 percent. Only 17 percent think budgets will stay flat.

The theme of getting more out of data attracts overwhelming support among CFOs, with 95 percent of them agreeing that their organisation needs to do more.

However, when it comes to gaining a competitive advantage by mastering big data analytics ahead of rivals, CFO support falls to a narrow majority of 53 percent.

Furthermore, when asked about how spending plans will reflect the need to extract more value from company data, the initial near unanimity disappears.

Roughly one-third of CFOs are planning to increase spending to develop inhouse capabilities to work with big data. Just over a quarter think the money should go into collaborating with an outside company to help work on big-data projects.

Yet the largest proportion of CFOs, some 37 percent, plan no increase in spending on big-data analytics in 2013, despite their apparent belief in its competitive importance.

CFO appetite for new technologies

American Express senior VP Brendan Walsh said data and its management are clearly important to CFOs, who see its potential to generate value.

"While there's a definite appetite for new technologies, the challenge for financial decision-makers now is to develop a clear strategy," he said in a statement.

Momentum behind investing in mobile technology is building, making it a priority area for finance executives. Almost eight out of 10 think their organisation needs to improve the way it uses mobile over the next year.

When the CFOs were asked to picked out their top three areas for technology investment over the next 12 months, about one in four cited increased use of cloud computing.

That proportion is well ahead of the one in five naming big data analytics but behind the one in three choosing mobile technology.

The American Express survey polled US and UK 154 senior finance executives, working for organisations with annual revenues ranging from $100m to $500m.

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