Visionaries need to ditch spreadsheets

To be fair, I would firstly like to declare my intentions: my goal is not to make disparaging remarks about accountants or those in charge of finance.

Like parking inspectors, they really do mean no harm and are only doing their job.

Clearly, my aim is to politely point out that CFOs do not rule the IT kingdom. I mean we are talking about two very different tribes in the corporate landscape.

Such an unlikely pairing yet some organizations have structures in place in which IT reports to finance. Unsuitable? Yes. Inappropriate? Certainly. I don't think it is unreasonable to describe our friends in finance as risk-averse. They are of course preoccupied with number crunching, general ledgers and expense reports.

The CFO is the financial protector guarding the bottom line and ensuring strict controls are in place.

As it should be. But they are everything IT is not.

This stark contrast is most evident when you compare the two on even the most superficial level.

I think it is fair to say that IT is inherently risky. It isn't always easy to predict and most importantly, IT is about innovation.

Technology cannot be reduced to a spreadsheet. Yes it can be measured, and it should always be accountable, but let there be room for some experimentation.

Technologists have a vision. Sometimes it may not be easy to translate but it always begins with a vision. It is about the future.

One characteristic that shapes a CFO's very existence is quarterly results. This 90-day view cannot be applied to IT for the technologist has a penchant for crystal ball gazing and the possibilities of futures yet to be determined.

Is the CFO going to use IT as a strategic weapon against competitors? Not likely, the CFO would be more inclined to reach for the calculator.

It is for these reasons that I am astonished to read research showing only 40 percent of CIOs in the US report to the CEO, often they are reporting to the CFO.

It helps explain why visiting US executives and vendor representatives seem to think they should be meeting with finance executives while in Australia.

This US-centric sales strategy may fit the North American procurement model but it doesn't work here.

This is one area where Australia demonstrates a high degree of maturity.

According to the 2005 State of the CIO survey conducted by CIO magazine, a mere 8.8 percent of Australian IT professionals report to the CFO.

Nearly 50 percent report directly to the CEO or managing director, 15 percent to the COO and 24 percent to the corporate CIO.

It is only logical that IT should have a direct reporting relationship with the CEO because this person is the company's chief strategist.

And as we all know IT can have a huge impact on a company's fortunes.

The results also dispel the myth that the CFO's influence in the IT domain is on the rise.

Nobody doubts that IT and business are working more closely together to achieve IT and business alignment, but don't be fooled into thinking there are hordes of financial controllers out there lording it over IT.

The stats prove this is dead wrong and that Australian organizations are getting it right.

It also proves that visionaries are ditching the spreadsheets in favour of innovation. Send e-mails to sandra_rossi@idg.com.au

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