CFO Summit Focuses on Global Challenges

by Monica Mehta, February 2008
Today's successful enterprises in rapidly developing economies might be in different industries and regions, but they share common elements. Flourishing companies understand the importance of simplifying and standardizing their business processes, using technology to automate the processes, and focusing on providing actual information—not just data—in their entire enterprise systems.

Globalization, and the challenges and opportunities it presents to companies around the world, was the theme of the Oracle CFO Summit at Oracle OpenWorld last November. Globalization experts and leading CFOs and other executives gathered to discuss the role finance can play in helping organizations succeed in a world that is being increasingly flattened by outsourcing, technology, and new competition from emerging-market leaders.

The executive event, entitled "Capitalizing on Globalization: CFO Strategies for Winning in a Flat World," was sponsored by India's Infosys, a leader in flat-world thinking and an inspiration for Thomas Friedman's book The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century.

"If you're a CFO, you know how difficult it is to manage in today's global economy," stated Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley, who led the event. "Rapid shifts in markets, technologies, customers, and products are disrupting entire industries and forcing companies to rethink the business models and corporate strategies that have sustained them for decades. The risks have never been higher, but the rewards are potentially greater than ever for those who can adapt and thrive in a world of continuous change."

The CFO Summit featured keynote speeches from three leading globalization experts. Infosys CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan spoke about the four megashifts flattening the world and how CFOs can leverage them to achieve stronger financial performance. The Hackett Group's president, Wayne Mincey, discussed how CFOs are capitalizing on globalization to lower governance and administration costs through outsourcing and technology standardization, reduce complexity through simplified compliance and supplier management, and increase strategic alignment with performance and talent management.

Hal Sirkin, senior vice president and globalization practice manager at the Boston Consulting Group, shared new research from his soon-to-be-published book, Globality: Competing with Everyone from Everywhere for Everything, which describes how companies in rapidly developing economies are challenging developed-country corporations and transforming international business as we know it.

The summit's two panels, entitled "Capitalizing on Globalization: CFO Strategies of World-Class Performers" and "Globalization Strategies of Emerging Market Leaders," featured senior executives from Oracle, Agilent, CSAV, HSBC, Infosys, SeverStal, Stryker Endoscopy, and ZTE. CFO panelists discussed how leading companies can leverage the new international business climate to maintain their competitive edge and how emerging-market companies can use their advantages to gain a significant share of the market.

Infosys CFO V. Balakrishnan, for example, spoke about his company's unique offshore outsourcing strategy, which relies on "insourcing" local talent from around the globe, training these people at the company's education center in India, and then redeploying them to their home countries in order to better serve the local needs of customers.

Monica Mehta is a California-based writer who specializes in business and technology.
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