CFOs out to reclaim IT domain

Chief financial officers want to regain control of information systems management, depending less on IT managers for report development because they fear losing control of their business, a visiting IT industry executive claims.

Alan Goldsworthy, chief executive of US-based CRM applications maker Applix, told Computerworld that more than 200 of Australia's CFOs, mostly from the financial services sector, were taking "direct control" of their IT reporting systems because of a pressing need for real-time insight into their business.

Goldsworthy told Applix customers this week that massive expenditure on enterprise applications had left many CFOs "in danger of losing control of their business".

"CFOs and their colleagues have been swamped with reports from CRM, ERP, financial systems, HR and other legacy systems," he said. "But these often conflicting views of the business raise more questions than they answer."

Specifically, Goldsworthy said CFOs were struggling to connect the dots of the enterprise information plethora, and transform data in a consolidated, meaningful way.

"For budget, forecasting and planning in particular, 20 to 30 per cent of CFOs have managed to create a single view of their various systems," he said.

Goldsworthy said that because revenue generation was the biggest driver behind corporate enterprise today, CFOs were asking how they could produce financial reports independently and quickly.

"Business models change every six months, and if it takes you, say, nine months to adjust to this, you've got a problem - so flexibility in your business applications and the ability to deploy rapidly [will determine] whether or not a business is wasting its time," Goldsworthy said.

He said the new approach to systems management was not "at all" an attempt to undermine the CIO.

"It's a generalistion that CIOs are not the best communicators in an organisation," he mused. "I've met a lot of CIOs who are just as articulate as any CFO or CEO and who understand their business, and I don't think one could do the other's job because CIOs and CFOs have different sets of challenges."

Goldsworthy said that CFOs and CIOs "literally" needed to participate in the selection and marrying of IT systems in an organisation and eventually would collaborate on a range of strategies from IT operations to multi-dimensional information systems.

"What their roles come down to is whether they can answer simple questions and make business decisions with some leadership - so for a start, you've got to have them [creating] an integrated financial reporting system."

He also speculated that CIOs reporting to CFOs will become the trend in the finance and accounting arm of large companies.

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