by Sandra Gittlen

Mind Matters: a New Approach to the IT/Finance Split

Apr 07, 2011
Financial Services IndustryIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Ask Chris Spivey and Keith Karnes if there's a problem with communication between finance and IT teams and you get a resounding "yes!"

Ask Chris Spivey and Keith Karnes if there’s a problem with communication between finance and IT teams and you get a resounding “yes!”

The two have teamed up to form Spivey & Co., a Dallas-based cloud accounting systems implementation firm, and have made it their mission to uncover the reasons that CFOs and CIOs don’t speak the same language. Doing so, they think, will help organizations succeed, and generate much better project results.

They believe wholeheartedly that the answer can be found in Anthony Gregorc’s 1984 “Mind Styles” model.

Gregorc divided how the mind works into four sections — concrete sequential, abstract sequential, concrete random, and abstract random. Spivey and Karnes theorize that, for the most part, accountants fall into the “concrete sequential” category, with IT workers classified as “abstract random.”

A Logical Drive to “Get Facts”

The difference Gregorc noted between these two categories is significant. Concrete sequential learners like order, logical sequence, following directions, predictability, and getting facts. They learn best when they have a structured environment, can rely on others to complete a task, and can apply ideas in pragmatic ways. They find it hard to work in groups, undertake discussions that seem to have no specific point, function in an unorganized environment, deal with abstract ideas, and field questions with no right or wrong answers, according to Gregorc.

Contrast this with Gregorc’s theory that abstract random learners listen to others, bring harmony to group situations, establish healthy relationships with others, and focus on the issues at hand. They learn best when they are in a personalized environment, given broad or general guidelines, and able to participate in group activities. It’s difficult for these types of learners to explain or justify their feelings, have competition, work with dictatorial or authoritarian personalities, and concentrate on one thing at a time.

Escaping the Silo

While Spivey and Karnes don’t expect to change CFOs into abstract random learners, or IT experts into concrete sequential ones, they do consider it critical to enlighten leaders in each camp about each the thought processes of the other. For instance, they are making a presentation to the Texas Society of CPAs in June about how IT thinks — and thus, how to work best with them for a positive outcome.

The duo feels that taking finance and IT out of their siloed comfort zones, and putting them in situations where they need to be deliberately respectful of each other, will eliminate strife in the long run. If a CFO pushes an IT head to adopt cloud-based computing, rather than caving, for example, IT could rebut, saying that the company just got internal infrastructure up to speed with Sarbanes-Oxley and other compliance mandates, and that moving to the cloud will unravel that.

“This is where knowing how each other’s mind works, and each other’s language, would help solve problems,” Spivey says.