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Unlocking the potential of Digital Reinvention® in finance


New technologies require CFOs to accelerate the shift from analog to digital, unlocking new value from enterprise data faster.

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What is digital business? It’s the convergence of commercial activity onto digital forms and platforms. Consider consumers using smartphones, businesses transacting without paper – but on an electronic data interchange (EDI), or better yet, a blockchain platform.

Finance is the critical component to help the enterprise capitalize on this digital environment. How? By providing the insights and forecasts to support strategic decisions.

The CEO looks directly to the CFO to understand the financial impact and operational changes of new business models. Finance needs to proactively help manage growth and risk on emerging business opportunities.

Yet finance organizations are still struggling with addressing their own operations. Gaps exist between finance’s effectiveness in providing input into enterprise strategy and driving integration of information – two of the activities they consider most important.

The annual finance function cost as a percentage of revenue has risen from 0.93 percent in 2014 to 1.37 percent in 2017.² Finance organizations spend only 20 percent of their time on business partnering and decision support, falling short of enterprise expectations.³ And only 14 percent of CFOs report their finance functions are “optimized” technologically, with systems enabling data-driven decisions.⁴

Finance challenges seem as if they may only get worse. Sources such as internal operational, administrative and investment data are generating a tsunami of data. Add to that environmental data about ecosystems. Then tack on complexities associated with accessing unstructured data, and integrating both non-financial and financial data to create new insights.

Traditional methods using spreadsheets, enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and online analytical processing tools are no longer enough.

Based on recent IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) research, this paper explores successful strategies adopted by a small group of financial outperformers and how new technologies can help CFOs transform their operations, address disruption and provide influence beyond the finance function.

 1 IBM Institute for Business Value Benchmarking Program. 2017 sample size of 474. 2014 sample size of 1021. Unpublished data accessed on December 1, 2017 2 IBM Institute for Business Value Benchmarking Program. 2017 sample size of 474. Unpublished data accessed on December 1, 2017.


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Meet the authors

William Fuessler

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, Global Domain Leader for Finance, Risk and Fraud


Carl Nordman

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


Spencer Lin

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, Global Research Leader, Chemicals, Petroleum, and Industrial Products, IBM Institute for Business Value