Why Canadian CFOs may be more ready to fund CIO innovation than ever before

That business case for a new IT project you were reluctant to make to the boss? Now may be the ideal time for CIOs to make it, based on the Canadian results of a global survey of chief financial officers by American Express.

According to the eighth annual American Express/CFO Research Global Business & Spending Monitor, executives here showed a much greater optimism around areas like job growth, business opportunity and the need to finance innovation appropriately. Here’s a quick rundown of the key stats:

  • 60 per cent of Canadian CFOs plan to increase their investments toward developing new products or services. Last year only 17 percent said the same.
  • 73 per cent expect to see economic expansion over the next 12 months.
  • 80 per cent of these Canadian finance executives predict these increased sales to occur here in North America, as opposed to other regions.
  • 80 per cent said they want to be more competitive with other companies
  • 70 per cent said they were focused on better meeting customer needs
  • 70 per cent want to enter new markets.

“The one stat that was interesting to me was 43 per cent — almost half — are planning to increase their spending in enterprise IT and the related labour and headcount,” said

Paul Parisi, American Express Canada’s vice-president and GM of Global Corporate Payments. “It’s a pretty big number when it comes to enterpirse IT and headcount. I’d be shoring up those stats and bringing them before the CFO in my organization if I were a CIO.”

Some of this sentiment may come as a shock to CIOs who have seen little more than flat or declining IT budgets for years now, and a push towards cloud computing or traditional outsourcing and managed services to reduce costs even further. However Parisi told me the push towards greater investments is no fluke.

“This hasn’t just happened,” said Parisi, who has been involved in the study for the past three years. “It’s been building up to this point. Three years ago we saw the beginning of the recovery from the recession, where CFOs were holding funds. Last year there were more declaring funds would be available.”

Although not all CIOs report into CFOs, a move by finance departments to be more aggressive in offering budget to compete could assist in a long-held desire by IT leaders to focus the better part of their time on business transformation rather than maintaining legacy systems. CFO priorities like focusing on customer needs, for example, could jive well with a lot of the more customer-facing technologies such as enterprise apps that CIOs and IT departments have started to develop.

As for the emphasis Canadian CFOs placed on sales in North America, it comes as no surprise. While gas prices have had little impact on IT spending so far, Parisi said the falling Canadian dollar could affect the way companies source products and services, and where they hope to yield the greatest profit from the products and services they provide to others.

“If you’re buying from the U.S, this is not a great time for you,” he said. Unless, presumably, you have an American Express card.

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Shane Schick
Shane Schickhttp://shaneschick.com
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