IT Leaders See Need to Be on Par With CFOs

To optimally align IT with business requirements, companies need to have an organisational structure in which the CIO reports directly to the CEO, several attendees said at the Premier 100 conference.

Organizations whose CIOs report to their chief financial officers are taking an "anachronistic" approach, said Andre Mendes, chief technology integration officer at PBS.

"It's an artifact from the days when IT was still in its infancy," Mendes said, noting that technology managers were initially involved purely with data processing jobs aimed at improving efficiencies and cutting costs.

In the health care industry, having CIOs report to CFOs stopped making sense when hospitals began automating their clinical operations, said Dennis L'Heureux, CIO at Rockford Health System.

Putting IT executives on par with CFOs "neutralises the perception that the only time we invested in systems was when we were doing projects for the finance department," he said during a panel discussion on the relationship between CIOs and CFOs.

A more equal relationship between the technology, business and finance groups also fosters a better understanding of mutual goals, said Lynne Ellyn, CIO at DTE Energy.

For instance, DTE has developed a quarterly project-prioritisation process under which its IT team vets proposed initiatives with department-level financial managers before passing them along to CFO David Meador. The process is better than the "haphazard manner" in which projects were funded previously, Ellyn said.

That doesn't mean Ellyn and Meador always see eye to eye on IT investments. But Meador said the two executives "have spent a lot of time talking about values and relationships, and that has made the technology and budget issues easier to manage."

Even though L'Heureux doesn't report to Rockford Health CFO Sue Petru, he makes sure he's well prepared for meetings with her. "I think that if I come in with numbers, Sue likes it," he said.

And on those occasions when L'Heureux loses an IT-related argument to Petru, he gets with the program. For instance, Rockford Health recently signed a contract with an application service provider for a new clinical system -- a decision that was opposed by L'Heureux, who wanted to upgrade an existing application running internally. "But once that decision's made, I'm a team player, and I'm supporting it," he said.

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