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For CFOs, cognitive computing and AI makes sense of data


Cognitive computing—systems able to adapt and learn—can help chief financial officers (CFOs) uncover opportunities to improve operational efficiency and foster profitable growth

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Enterprises face unprecedented challenges and finance is at the epicenter. Increasing business risk and volatility are evidenced by accelerating business disruption through disintermediation, virtualization, and technical innovation.

The pressure is on CFOs to enable enterprise agility and help their businesses make better decisions. Finance organizations must now proactively manage business growth and risk through advanced, predictive analytics, creation of meaningful business partnerships, and curation and integration of enterprise data.

To do so, CFOs need to take advantage of cognitive computing—systems able to adapt and learn with the help of artificial intelligence—to make sense of the massive amount of data confronting them. Cognitive exponentially increases the ability to digest vast amounts of data and infer potential insights with much greater speed than human or traditional computing platforms.

How can finance organizations use cognitive computing to capitalize on new capabilities? To help answer this question, we used results taken from a survey of 6,050 global executives to identify a small group of finance outperformers–14 percent of study participants.¹ This group self-reported that they have significantly outperformed on revenue growth over the past three years and have been significantly more efficient and profitable.

By learning from these leaders, other finance organizations can understand the potential to excel in the cognitive era. They can begin to:

• Create a culture for cognitive

• Build a cognitive data foundation

• Focus on skills and staffing

This report details the importance of cognitive computing for CFOs and outlines a course of action organizations can take to accelerate their cognitive journeys.

¹ IBM Institute for Business Value Cognitive Enterprise Study, 2016.


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Meet the authors

Carl Nordman

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, Director, Global C-suite Study Program, and CFO Research Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value


William Fuessler

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, Global Finance, Risk and Fraud Practice Lead


Spencer Lin

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, Global Chemicals and Petroleum, Industrial Products and Global CFO Lead, IBM Institute for Business Value



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