Management and Finances

IT and Finance Executives: Partners at Last

By Mary Shacklett

Chief information officers (CIOs) have traditionally butted heads with chief financial officers (CFOs) over IT spending. But CFOs are now seeing how technology is enabling business strategy—and they’re working with, rather than against, IT. Most IT leaders are saying that it’s about time!

Mary Shacklett writes, “For years, the informal ‘handle’ for CFOs has been ‘bean counter,’ which the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as a disparaging term for someone who is ‘involved in corporate or government financial decisions and especially one reluctant to spend money,’ and as ‘a person who helps to run a business and who only cares about money.’ Merriam-Webster also provides an example sentence showing how ‘bean counter’ would be used, for the benefit of English language learners: ‘He blames corporate bean counters for causing thousands of workers to lose their jobs.’

“At first blush, those of us who made our careers in disciplines other than finance are likely to agree with those definitions. We remember the CFO as the hatchet man who killed an important project out of a need to meet corporate profitability goals or because they didn’t see enough ROI (return on investment) in the project to back it.

“But all that is changing now for new CFOs—and even for veteran CFOs, who suddenly find themselves at a new crossroads. Just reviewing the numbers and saying ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ is no longer enough.

“‘Today, newly minted CFOs and those who have worn the CFO mantle for some time must take a different view of IT and of business strategy,’ said Steve Cox, vice president of ERP and EPM go-to-market for Oracle. ‘When I talk with CFOs, they recognize this change. Today, in addition to the numbers, CFOs have to be aware of the business processes that will help their companies grow, the people they will need in order to propel corporate growth, and the role of technology and technology infrastructure to enable this growth.’

“Cox’s mention of IT infrastructure wasn’t lost on me. As a former CIO, I recalled numerous battles over middleware, bandwidth, system and security software, and edge devices that fell upon deaf CFO ears—because they couldn’t connect the dots between deploying mobile devices and other tangible technologies and the foundational IT underpinnings that were needed to support them.”

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