CFOs generally believe that it is part of their job to dissuade the rest of the organisation from expenditure. It is therefore not surprising that they are particularly alert to anyone from within their OWN department of finance looking to spend money on projects as this may set a bad example to the rest of the business. One such project that may get this critical analysis is spreadsheet management ...since the finance department is where many of the most critical business spreadsheets exist.
Of course, if there has been a recent executive-level problem then they are likely to be as keen as everyone else to fix it. If there has not been such a high level problem then one of their most common comments is along the lines of "I can't remember a single serious spreadsheet issue within our company". Those faced with answering the question are left in the difficult position of either admitting to problems that had since been covered up/remedied without notifying the CFO (not likely to be a career enhancing move) or questioning their own judgement that spreadsheet risk was indeed something they should have rated as a serious issue, worthy of expenditure.
The reality may be better explained by an article from Simon Hurst posted at the Insitute of Chartered Accountants website...it’s Frankenstein. Here, Simon analyses the discovery by BP that after a full 'drain's up' review (in the wake of a single substantial and public error) none of their other business critical spreadsheets contained material errors.
Simon makes the key point that these fragile applications can only have been held together by compensating user tasks. My interpretation is that all the potential errors have actually been held at bay by large amounts of very expensive manual checks - although of course every now and again errors do slip through.
For those contemplating spreadsheet management, this observation suggests another part of the ROI (return on investment) that should be considered to justify spreadsheet management investment. This is the enormous level of effort by many users applying constant manual checks. If these are automated by spreadsheet management technology, then valuable, expensive professionals can get back to analysis.
Of course this still doesn't help if the CFO turns round and says that it is the duty of his finance organisation to do the manual graft, even if it means working into the night. But at least they will be requesting spreadsheet management investment to relieve a real and current cost of effort as well as the future cost of error.