Beyond Bean Counting

Sophisticated data systems turn financial records into versatile strategic tools

Clark H. Johnson, chief financial officer for Johnson & Johnson, was shocked when he read a Du Pont Co.-sponsored benchmarking study on finance-unit expenses back in 1989. It turned out that his department ranked among the worst in Corporate America on its overhead-to-sales ratio. Johnson now says it was "hard to get people serious about costs when sales were growing at double-digit levels." But that troubling discovery prompted him to launch a revamp of finance operations that he figures has saved the multinational health-care products maker an average of about $200 million annually.

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