Highest Priority for CFOs? Strategic Planning

For second place on the priority list, finance chiefs chose a perennial, budgeting. Periodic forecasting came in third.
Matthew HellerNovember 13, 2014

Strategic planning, budgeting, compliance with domestic regulations, profitability analysis and cash forecasting are the five most pressing concerns of CFOs and finance executives, according to a new survey.

agendaThe 2015 Finance Priorities Survey from the Financial Executives Research Foundation and consulting firm Protiviti shows there’s plenty to keep finance professionals busy, with “waves of work rolling in at a greater pace and frequency” amid “improving, yet still volatile, marketplace conditions.”

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For the 372 professionals who responded to the survey in the third quarter of 2014, strategic planning stood out as the highest priority with a score of 7.2 on a scale of one to 10. Budgeting scored 7.1 and periodic forecasting 7.0.

The scores in those areas “reflect the finance function’s commitment to achieving (and sharing) sharper, and increasingly real-time, clarity on performance, cash positions and profitability sources,” the study says.

Profitability analysis was judged a much higher priority than it was last year. By sharpening their analysis of which product lines, customer segments and geographics are most profitable, “finance functions can strengthen decision-making around pricing, new markets, acquisitions and related strategic matters,” the survey report suggests.

Compliance with domestic regulations was the highest priority in the area of technical proficiency with a score of 6.6.

Compared with last year, according to the report, finance professionals “appear much more focused on their function’s ability to manage domestic regulations, tax planning and forecasting activities, in-country tax requirements, compliance with international cash/earnings repatriation and the impending new FASB standard concerning revenue recognition.”

As far as emerging issues, the FERF and Protiviti found that CFOs and finance executives are focused intently on the aging workforce, which scored 5.2 on the priority index, up from 4.7 last year.

“This change suggests that succession planning and talent management challenges, fueled by retiring baby boomers, are requiring more attention from corporate finance leaders,” the research says.