Sarbox Spurs Technology Spending, CFOs Say

Software budgets are burgeoning at many companies in response to growing reporting demands, a PwC survey finds.

About half of 177 CFOs and managing directors of U.S.-based multinationals responding to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers survey say their companies are mulling buying new technologies over the next 12 months to improve their current reporting infrastructure.

Further, 46 percent of the executives said that expanded corporate reporting resulted in larger information-technology budgets; 11 percent said their IT budget increased considerably.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is the big reason for the percolating demands in reporting technology. Eighty-four percent of the respondents to PwC’s “Management Barometer” cited the act’s requirements as a challenge to corporate reporting and compliance, making it the most mentioned in a series of factors.

Seventy percent of the executives cited “other SEC requirements” as a challenge, followed closely by the 68 percent who mentioned “internal reporting and compliance needs.”

Sarbox “requirements are a significant test of existing information systems and capabilities because of their far-reaching scope,” said PricewaterhouseCoopers Partner Mike Willis.

But companies’ existing software might not be up to the trials of the new reporting rules and needs, the survey suggest. Just 39 percent of the executives interviewed rate one or more of their company’s business- information processes as highly effective. What’s more, 29 percent describe at least one of their processes as less than acceptable.

Asked which presently used tools most enhance access to data and control and reliability of that information, they most often cited enterprise-resource-planning (ERP) systems (40 percent) and data warehouses (39 percent).

Business-intelligence software was a distant third is, cited by just 6 percent, followed by XML and Web-service systems (4 percent).

Software preference seemed to break down by company size. Executives that rated ERP the most effective tool tended to come from companies averaging $5.9 billion in revenues–well below the $8.7 billion average for the companies studied. In contrast, the finance chiefs and managing directors that found data warehouses most effective came from companies averaging $10.6 billion in revenues.

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