The sources of business complexity are, paradoxically, simple to trace. But separating out and subduing the strands of corporate convolution requires constant vigilance. Complexity spreads rapidly, like ivy, creeping into every function and department, squeezing the vitality from an enterprise.Trim it and it grows again, faster than before. Is there any way to conquer complexity once and for all?
In a recent survey conducted by CFO Research, in collaboration with software giant SAP, finance executives revealed that their most effective weapon against mounting complexity — and the key to maintaining a company’s adaptability and resilience — resides with their well-integrated use of technology. According to the 159 senior finance executives from large and midsize companies who responded to the online survey, businesses need systems that boost agility, improving their ability to share critical information across the enterprise. (The full report, “Future-Proofing the Complex Modern Business,” can be downloaded atcfo.com/research.)
“By having better information, we can promise products to our customers faster than our competitors,” said Darin Holderness, corporate controller at Woodgrain Millwork, a manufacturer and distributor of moldings, doors and other woodwork. “Without that information, we can’t send people out to confidently promise that. The same goes for product costs. If I have somebody who wants a one-time buy at a reduced price, without good information on the availability of the product and its cost, we can’t give that information quickly enough.”
Finance leaders have some rethinking to do as they work to promote a strategic approach to handling information. In order to deploy data as a strategic asset, the finance function needs to lead the way in assuring the production of trustworthy information. That effort might include, for example, establishing standards for data quality or raising existing ones. It may also mean taking a holistic view of key information, ensuring that data is consistent throughout the enterprise.
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