Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Top Priorities for Finance in 2014

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Top Priorities for Finance in 2014

Article excerpt

Harnessing data for strategic planning, streamlining processes, and bracing for heightened regulatory concerns are the top priorities for CFOs and the finance function, according to a recent report.

Finance executives were asked to rate how different issues and capabilities ranked among their priorities in business consulting firm Protiviti's 2014 Finance Priorities Survey, which polled 220 finance leaders, three-fourths of whom were CPAs or chartered accountants. Improving strategic planning capabilities ranked as the highest priority in the survey Data-driven processes related to strategic planning--such as cash forecasting, periodic forecasting, and budgeting-also were rated as high priorities.

"More and more companies are looking to harness business intelligence and Big Data for strategic planning," Jay Thompson, a Protiviti managing director, said in a news release. "They also want to analyze their data to gain an in-depth understanding of their customers, products, and other business areas in order to identify the best opportunities for profitability."

To succeed in strategic planning initiatives, staff members must have the discipline to follow through with them, said Jim Lindell, CPA, CGMA, president of Wisconsin-based Thorsten Consulting Group and author of Strategic Planning: A Simplified and Workable Approach for Private Companies.

Here are some of Lindell's tips for successfully following through with a strategic plan:

1. Upper management has to buy in. "The CEO or COO is really charged with strategic vision," Lindell said. "They should be the ones that drive that process."

2. Maintain an appropriate scale. "A plan can be anything from the back of the envelope to the traditional 40-or 50-page strategic plan," Lindell said. "And depending on the skill sets of the people, the back of the envelope might be perfectly fine."

3. Follow up on at least a quarterly basis. "The danger with a strategic plan is that you do it, and then people laugh about putting it on their shelves," Lindell said. "And no one goes back and looks at it. …

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