job description: The head of IT finance analyzes, forecasts and reports the operational budget for the IT department. Executives in this position also vet costs for the IT component of business plans for other departments. The precise job title for the position varies, but companies with an IT staff of more than 100 typically would have a vice president of IT finance reporting directly to the CIO.
The IT finance head also may be responsible for IT procurement and vendor management functions. He or she ensures that IT adheres to company policies related to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other financial controls. “Sarbanes-Oxley has placed a tremendous burden on IT finance and the IT function has an important role in Sarbanes-Oxley compliance,” says David Van De Voort, a principal consultant with Mercer Human Resource Consulting.
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why you need a head of IT finance: Having an IT finance chief holds someone accountable at the divisional manager level for capturing the maximum value from technology investment, a major expenditure.
As corporations place increasing demands on IT to ensure that technology is aligned with business goals, the IT finance head can analyze technology costs across divisions, with a “dotted line” reporting relationship to the chief financial officer.
desired skills: Bachelor’s degree in business, IT, finance or a related field. Excellent administration skills; ability to communicate clearly and concisely. Must possess an aptitude for translating complex, technical subjects into clear, business-oriented communications. Ten years’ experience in finance or procurement, with IT management or leadership background.
how to find one: Though a passion for and understanding of technology are necessary, candidates for a vice presidential role in IT finance are often found in finance departments. “You need someone who understands financial systems and who has strong systems and business process knowledge,” says Mike Burgett, president and managing partner of CIO Partners Inc., an executive search firm. “You’re most likely to find a person like this in finance or accounting, someone who might be a sort of ‘super user.’”
what to look for: “You’re going to need someone with better-than-average diplomatic and communications skills, because in some ways he or she is going to be a stranger in a strange land,” says Van De Voort. For example, a financial person will have to convince IT people that he or she has technology bona fides.
elimination round: Ask prospective candidates how they manage their current staff and workload. If the answer is all about cutting costs, watch out. You want people who understand business processes and how to derive value out of systems. You don’t want bottom feeders.