Strategic Use of Data Bolsters Profitability, Say CFOs

A new study by the Economist Intelligence Unit finds a relationship between the growth of corporate earnings and companies' use of data in strategic planning and decision-making.


A survey of 318 C-level executives finds that while all companies are collecting more data than ever before, those from companies where average EBITDA growth over the past three financial years has exceeded 10% are more likely than their less rapidly growing peers to analyse various data sources they collect (eg 58% vs 43%, with reference to third-party data) and to consider themselves effective at extracting useful insights from this analysis (81% vs 57%).


Furthermore, they are also far more likely to have to have changed the way they handle strategic decisions as a result of having more data (50% vs 36%), and to have seen improved strategic decision-making as a result of better data analysis (60% vs 38%).


A supplement to the EIU report, "The Data Directive: Focus on the CFO," reveals that CFOs identify improved scenario planning and forecasting as the key area where having more data has made the biggest positive difference to their role, identified by 40%.


Furthermore, 34% have improved financial close management, and 32% have used data to bolster profitability.


The report also highlights that CFOs are more cautious than their C-suite peers about the strategic insights data has delivered: just 24% believe that their company's strategic planning is highly data-driven compared to 35% of CEOs and 43% of CMOs.


Similarly, whereas relatively high proportions of CEOs (48%), CIOs (40%) and CMOs (33%) believe that their company has changed the way they tackle strategic business decisions as a result of having more data, fewer CFOs (24%) believe this is the case.


CFOs are more likely than their C-suite peers to see themselves as leaders of data initiatives.


When asked who currently takes the lead on data-related initiatives within the business, an equal proportion of CFOs (27%) flagged both themselves and their CIO.


Their C-suite peers are more likely to cite the CIO as the natural point person on such initiatives, followed by a range of other corporate officers.

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