New CFO Study Tracks the Rise of 'Performance Accelerators'

The vast majority of CFOs (82%) see the value of integrating enterprise-wide data, but only 24% think their team is up to the task, according to a recently released IBM study, Pushing the frontiers: CFO insights from the Global C-suite Study.
This marks a three-fold increase in the gap between the importance of data and the ability to exploit its value since the question was first asked in 2005, showcasing a critical divide in the skills and capabilities for today’s finance teams.
Conducted by IBM’s Institute of Business Value, this study is based on findings from face-to-face conversations with 576 CFOs from around the world.
Results show that CFOs’ expectations of their finance team have evolved, as have their views on technology. While macro-economic and market factors still lead the list of external forces they expect to have the most impact on their enterprises in the near future, technology is now third on the list – up from fifth place in 2010.
Rise of ‘performance accelerators’
Over the past nine years, the IBM research has revealed a subset of CFOs dubbed value integrators -- individuals who are more effective in finance efficiency and analytical insight than their peers.
This year, the study also identified an even smaller set of high performers called performance accelerators, CFOs who have mastered their core duties so thoroughly that they’re far ahead of their peers. They have been 70% more successful than value integrators, measured in terms of revenues and profits generated during the past three years.
The percentage of performance accelerators that are effective at integrating enterprise-wide information is double that of value integrators. Similarly, the percentage of those that are effective at continuously improving processes is 43% higher, while the percentage that are effective at developing finance talent is 48% higher.  
Critical differentiator
A critical differentiator for these most successful CFOs is how they use data. While the average CFO relies on spreadsheets and intuition for the majority (66%) of their work, more than two-fifths (44%) of performance accelerators combine internal and external data to produce insights.
Performance accelerators use the deep insights they’ve unearthed to create profitable growth, spending more time on a wide range of activities, particularly forging an infrastructure to capitalize on big data, handling acquisitions and divestitures and developing new business models.  

Another defining characteristic of this group is that they have a much better grasp of the digital domain as nearly half work in companies with a seamlessly integrated physical-digital strategy. Further, the majority (70%) understands – and collaborates with – customers far more extensively than other CFOs. 



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