Ellen Messmer, a former colleague of mine at Network World, recently wrote about a Gartner study that found CFOs lack faith in CIOs and their teams.
CFOs Lack Faith in CIOs and IT Teams, Survey Shows
The study, done in partnership with Finance Executives International, revealed that of 344 CFOs from a cross-section of industries, only about 25% believed their IT organization “has the organizational and technical flexibility to respond to changing business priorities,” or “is able to deliver against the enterprise/business unit strategy.”
In blogging for CFOworld, one of my main themes has been that the CFO/IT tie must be strengthened. A survey like this shows me there is still a lot of work to be done. With more and more finance chiefs being asked to head up technology efforts, a poor relationship will not stand. You want to sink your company? Have disrespect between finance and IT.
Instead, there has to be a meeting of the minds. Acrimony is a poison pill against profits. CEOs, board members, and anyone else with influence has to create an environment where CFOs are given the tools to comprehend the need for targeted technology spending, and where CIOs are immersed in corporate finances enough to understand the bigger picture.
I’ve interviewed lots of people at companies in which bitterness exists between finance and IT. It takes quite a toll on everyone within the organization. Imagine this: You’re head of the corporate call center and you need a new CRM system. IT has great ideas for you, but the CFO won’t approve the budget. Rather than saying they’ll meet and discuss their concerns, they both just walk away. As the call center manager, this leaves you two options: sign on with an outside service and explain the expense later, or scrap the project. Both are poor paths for someone who is clearly trying to improve the company’s stance.
The Gartner study found that in 26% of the surveyed companies, the CFO alone authorizes IT investments. If those decisions were made in a vacuum with no IT input, the results would be detrimental. I feel the same about the other finding that 11% of organizations leave decisions up to the CIO. Companies have to get to the stage that 25% of their peers are, according to Gartner, where the CIO and CFO together approve IT investments.
Will this nirvana happen everywhere? Not likely. But if you expect your company to be competitive, strategic, and innovative, then that CFO/CIO alliance has to be a priority.