CFOs release iron grip on IT purse

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CFOs release iron grip on IT purse

But will CIOs share in the spoils?

Chief financial officers have raised the prospect of loosening their grip on the IT purse over the next year, buoyed by a sense of optimism they did not have three months ago.

In the latest quarterly Deloitte Australia CFO survey (pdf), 92 percent of surveyed chief financial officers expected IT investment to increase or stay the same over the next year.

More than half (53 percent) of CFOs said investment in IT would increase, while 39 percent saw investment staying at 2011 levels. Only nine percent planned to cut IT investments compared to last year.

Deloitte's findings, in some respects, reflected a shift in confidence compared to just three months ago, when CFOs were warning of deferral or cutbacks to IT projects as a result of lingering economic uncertainty.

But the increased spending on IT may not be within the chief information officer's grasp.

"While IT budgets remain tight and IT is still being asked to do more with less, technology spend is moving with much of the new investment coming outside the domain of the CIO," national leader of technology Robert Hillard said.

Hillard told iTnews that successful CIOs were increasingly those who were more "openly relaxed about technology spend outside of their core domain".

"There's one or two reactions a CIO can have," he said.

"One is to say, 'From a governance perspective, I own all IT spend, therefore if I find out about something being spent on mobility solutions or client-facing branch-based solutions I will insist that it comes back into my domain or I'll shut it down'.

"The alternative reaction is to encourage that investment as you find out about it, and go further and actually add your own investment into it and put your architecture stamp on it so you actually become part of driving a coordinated technology strategy, knowing that you've lost some of the control."

Hillard said CFOs were particularly prepared to invest in technology projects that had been segmented into "smaller drops" or chunks of work.

"We're seeing strong pushes around agile methodologies," he said. "It's been a really strong push in the past eight to nine months."

Hillard noted that spending decisions on core IT projects would still be handled "conservatively" when it came to the approval of funds by CFOs.

Risk lifts

One of the reasons for IT caution in the last quarterly CFO survey was risk aversion, perceptions of which appeared to have lifted somewhat in the three months to the present.

Only one in four CFOs thought it was a good time to take on risk in the fourth quarter of 2011. Now, that figure is 46 percent.

The latest survey found 38 percent of CFOs in a more optimistic frame of mind on their company's financial prospects than they were in the past quarter.

Deloitte Australia has been contacted for additional comment.

As CIOs increasingly report up to the CFO, the Deloitte survey presents a barometer of the sentiment among those who sign off on IT expenditure.

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