Study finds CFOs don't believe IT is strategic

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Study finds CFOs don't believe IT is strategic

Just put in my BI dashboard, little fella.

The majority of finance executives at large organisations take a dim view of the IT department, according to a survey of CFOs conducted by Gartner.

IT fails to deliver and offers no competitive edge, CFOs reported. And to top it off, they do not view their CIOs as strategic partners.

That was the feedback from 344 financial executives running US organisations with revenues between US$50 million and US$1 billion per year in a survey conducted by Gartner. Sixty-six per cent of respondents were CFOs, the analyst group said.

The survey confirms the long-held view that number crunchers have little faith in their IT departments.

Just 47 percent of respondents viewed IT as strategic, while 28 percent said IT fulfills “what is asked of it”. An appallingly low 35 percent saw IT as a strategic driver of businesses performance, while just eight percent believed it contributed to a company’s competitive position. A mere four percent saw IT as truly “transformational”.   

That miserable view of technology was why finance was beginning to wrestle back control over IT programs, according Bill Sinnett, director of research at Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), one of the organisations that commissioned Gartner to do the research.

"Given some of this dissatisfaction, CFOs are taking a more active role in controlling a greater share of the organisation's IT investments,” he said. 

It's unclear whether Australian finance executives would hold the same view, but some of the nation's largest corporations have partially merged the two functions.

Qantas CEO Allan Joyce spiked its CIO function altogether in 2009, planting then-CFO David Hall as its interim technology chief. Hall is now Jetstar's CEO, while Qantas has a developed a stack of IT power-brokers beneath new CIO, Paul Jones and Jayne Hrdlicka, Qantas' group executive of strategy and technology.  

Commonwealth Bank CIO Michael Harte leads technology strategy at the bank, but the CBA's $1 billion-plus core systems replacement is being led by former Accenture big wig, Dave Curran. The bank’s CFO David Craig also has hands-on technology experience, previously responsible for IT and finance at property development group Australand.

Westpac’s CIO Bob McKinnon has also earned his CFO stripes while running property development group, Brookefield Multiplex.

National Australia Bank's (NAB) CIO Adam Bennet does not have a spot on CEO Cameron Clyne's group executive committee. At that level NAB's Group Business Services head, Gavin Slater, a former Australian banking CFO, calls the IT cards, and is responsible for the bank's Next Generation core systems upgrade. 

Sinnett encouraged organisations to better educate their CFO technology decision makers if they were to take more control of IT. 

There was more consensus when it came to views on project management and ownership of technology programs.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents said successful technology initiatives were the result of “clear ownership”, while 37 percent pointed to the business case and 36 percent saw project management as more critical than “technical prowess”.

"IT organisations must understand the CFO's views of technology investment decisions and must work toward developing a relationship with the CFO that resembles a business partnership," said John Van Decker, research vice president at Gartner.

"This will enable the business to become more agile. This flexibility will help firms select best practices that could make business processes work better, thereby providing better business insight."

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