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2/21/2003
02:41 PM
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Real-Time Information For Outsiders Is A Low Priority

Companies are racing to build systems that give them closer to real-time information about their financial and operating performance. But when it comes to sharing that information with outsiders, the trend appears to be moving in the opposite direction.

Gathering financial information to share externally ranked last out of 14 reasons for why companies are increasing the speed at which they handle data, according to preliminary findings of a new InformationWeek Research survey. Sharing financial reports externally was cited by 44% of managers, compared with 75% who cited faster financial reporting for internal use. Full results of the Real-Time Business survey of 261 business-technology executives will be available March 3.

Only three other drivers were cited by less than half of managers: better collaboration with suppliers, product customization, and industry requirement. More than 80% cited business agility and cost savings.

After a rash of accounting scandals and financial restatements, executives are more cautious about sharing financial information with outsiders and particularly with stock analysts and investors. The Information Week Research findings fit with the growing trend for executives to stop giving analysts guidance, meaning predictions of revenue and profit for an upcoming quarter that executives then try to meet. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co. this month joined the list of companies that have ended this practice, once known as "whisper numbers" since they were given to analysts and not the general public.

Explains Steve Reinemund, CEO of PepsiCo: "Frankly, this has taken up too much time, and it's too precise, and it doesn't take into account the balance of our portfolio."

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