How to Keep Wall Street Analysts Happy

Most financial analysts aren't experts on technology, but they know how to spot an IT-induced financial fire. Here are three hot spots to avoid.

It's not often that Wall Street financial analysts hear from a CIO. But that doesn't mean they aren't interested in what's going on inside a CIO's department.

MORE ON CIO.com

Does Your Work in IT Matter to Wall Street?

How TJX Avoided Wall Street's Wrath

Credit Suisse's Balancing Act

"When we value a company, the value is based a lot on earnings potential," says Bonnie Chan, a securities analyst at Dreman Value Management who covers financial services. "And an IT implementation can increase earnings potential." Or, conversely, it can take away from a company's value if financial analysts don't see a clear link between an IT project and a financial return, Chan says.

One way for companies to appease analysts is to provide clear time lines and expected returns to the financial community on massive IT projects. So a company could say, "In the next three years, we will invest X amount of money in IT and save $100 million," Chan says. "We would love time lines like that."

Though Chan claims no expertise in IT, she's well aware of the difficulties involved in IT implementations and systems integration. "There's so much that can go wrong integrating multiple systems that can affect, say, sales," Chan says. "We know that things can blow up."

Red flags pop up when, for example, management offers analysts vague time lines of when the company expects to start or finish integrating systems in a merger or acquisition, Chan says. "If we have a sense that a time line is delayed, that's certainly a red flag," she says. "And we'll have to ask more questions."

Chan says that IT initiatives that have close proximity to the end customer will always be more scrutinized than other types of company programs "because these are the instances where long-term damage, such as customer dissatisfaction, can be done if things don't go according to plan."

Lastly, Chan says if a CIO does have to speak on a quarterly conference call, leave the IT-speak back in the shop. "It can be sometimes hard for [CIOs] to be articulate," she says, "and for the audience to understand what they are saying."

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

6 digital transformation success stories