by CIO Staff

Finance and Procurement Are Rising Stars

May 17, 20053 mins
IT Leadership

Once relegated essentially to back rooms where purchasing orders were handled, the procurement function is gaining increased significance in the enterprise while finance departments become more strategic.

Two factors have caused this increased importance of both finance and procurement. The first involves the required cost-cutting during the economic downturn several years ago. As companies could find no new revenue, the only way to keep a somewhat solid bottom line was by cutting costs. This drove leaders in internal procurement to become increasingly creative as they analyzed and dissected where money was being spent companywide before devising ways to improve and control that spending.

As a result, companies began to require more standardized internal reporting, especially global companies. Through use of more sophisticated technologies, chief finance officers began to monitor costs across divisions and make internal comparisons.

The other driver for more sophisticated and precise purchasing and payment tracking was the passage of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). This act effectively made chief executive officers more responsible and personally liable for the numbers in their businesses. SOX can become a safety net for finance and procurement, much like Y2K became an umbrella for technology departments five years ago.

Back then, as companies headed toward the uncertainty of their computer systems working in the first day of the year 2000, it became a relatively easy argument for IT that various systems should be upgraded or, in many cases, totally replaced. Who wanted to take the chance?

For finance, SOX holds the same promise. With top executives’ personal fate on the line, an argument by a CFO or chief procurement officer that a certain system, process or strategy should be deployed to better comply with SOX should not be too tough a sell.

These two factors are leading to stronger – and better – finance and procurement activities.

CFOs and their departments are becoming more important not just because of the evolved sophistication of cost cutting, but because they have developed measured ways of how to most effectively and economically conduct business. And procurement departments have learned the value of setting standards and how to enforce those standards, as well as the dramatic impact this can have on the bottom line.

Procurement cuts across all areas. Especially at larger companies, it can involve processes for the purchasing of corporate travel, real estate services, facilities management, meetings and conferences, marketing services, advertising, direct mail, human resource services, logistics and technology.

Over the past several years, many finance and procurement leaders have a much more comprehensive view of their businesses. And this helps convert finance and procurement executives from financial watchdogs to resources for you.

The finance people now know many best practices and the procurement folks have mastered how to identify, get and manage the best deals from the best suppliers. These abilities are now a valuable (even if not fully appreciated) asset inside corporate entities.

The “how-to-do-something” cannot be underestimated in business these days. And now, the finance and procurement leaders have earned that credential. This presents opportunity throughout the organization to tap into this knowledge. Now department heads and individual executives and managers can tap into this expertise to see how they might use what finance and procurement leaders have learned to improve their own part of the business.