Cash Flow

Innovators’ (Other) Dilemma

A majority of C-level executives at large global companies are not happy with their companies' ability to turn ideas into cash.
CFO StaffMarch 18, 2004

CFOs, it’s often said, should be keenly involved with their companies’ IT strategies because they are “guardians of shareholder value” and as such must keep tabs on big expenses. More important, they must make sure those outlays are in the service of the corporate mission.

The same holds true for CFOs’ involvement in what Boston Consulting Group calls the “innovation-to-cash” (ITC) process, a term BCG coined to describe the steps by which ideas become revenue.

When BCG surveyed more than 200 C-level executives at large global companies, they found that a majority (57 percent) were not happy with their companies’ ability to turn ideas into cash. One reason, BCG says, is that successful ITC is cross-functional and multidisciplinary. Respondents agreed, saying that innovation isn’t just something for the R&D and marketing departments to address, but requires a strong understanding of customers, solid execution, and a corporate culture that values innovation and pursues it doggedly.

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While respondents disagreed on what exactly constitutes “innovation,” most agreed that innovation is very hard to measure—suggesting a possible role for the CFO. The IT world dominated respondents’ picks for the 10 most-innovative companies, with Microsoft, Apple, Dell, Intel, and Hewlett-Packard making the list, along with 3M, Sony, Nokia, GE, and BMW.

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