If there is anything more contradictory than what C-level executives of a company say and what they do, mankind has likely yet to discover it. This is a conclusion that can be drawn from a recent survey by American Express (News - Alert) Company and CFO Research, which found that 96 percent of U.S. senior finance executives agree they will need to draw far more value from financial and operating data in 2014. At the same time, these executives reported that they anticipate cautious investment plans in IT technology next year: especially big data analytics and cloud storage tools, which are the very solutions they would require to extract value from their data.
The survey, “Supporting Growth with New Technologies,” found that when asked to consider where IT improvements could offer the most value to growth plans, nearly half (48 percent) inexplicably said “cutting costs,” while the other half (48 percent) take a more insights-driven approach, citing effectiveness through analytical tools as the most valuable way IT can contribute to growth.
As for concrete budget plans, 40 percent of the CFOs said they plan to increase real spending on IT by 10 percent or more over the next year. Only eight percent said they planned to increase spend by 30 percent or more.
There was no explanation as to why nearly half of financial executives believe that IT processes can be improved by cutting budgets.
"CFOs continue to seek out technology which allows them to improve business performance and increase employee productivity," said Jay Cary, Vice President, Digital, Global Corporate Payments at American Express. "Mobile in particular is leading the way – both because of CFOs’ familiarity with the technology and for the real-time benefits it offers employees. As data analysis grows in importance, we expect to see similar investments in big data analytics and cloud-based solutions.”
The contradictory trend continues in mobile strategies. While three-quarters of respondents (76 percent) reported that their companies will need to make better use of mobile technology over the next year, only 11 percent said they have a formal, enterprise-wide plan for updating their mobile technology capabilities. Seventy percent of respondents said they will take an “ad hoc” approach or simply plan to implement a general directive on mobile technology.
In other words, a majority of American financial executives agree that new technologies are very critical, but they still won’t buy them. Apparently, admitting that something is important is all that’s required to take advantage of that trend. One wonders what would happen if their organizations took the same approach to issuing (or not issuing) their executive bonuses and raises.