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  • CFO IT

Stand by Me

While finance and IT don't always see eye to eye, many companies have learned how to transform a mere reporting relationship into a true partnership. Could this be the path to genuine alignment?

In fact, Botter joined Sun Healthcare as an IT staffer in charge of those finance-software rollouts, a multiyear effort complicated by the fact that the company entered Chapter 11 shortly after the project began. Despite eliminating the company’s international operations and reconfiguring other aspects of the business, the project managed to succeed (as has the company, returning to profitability this year). Both Botter and Stabile credit that success to having finance and IT staff that each understand the other side of the business. “Jennifer is very tech-savvy,” says Stabile. “She understands how data flows work and how to improve them.”

For her part, Botter says the flexibility provided by the new software is made more powerful by having IT and finance staff that understand what the business is trying to accomplish. Because Sun Healthcare comprises several subsidiaries, each with unique systems needs, rolling up financial results is complex, but essential. “There was a time when finance thought that IT ‘owned’ the data,” she says, “and if there were any problems, it was IT’s fault. We changed that. We made sure that IT understood the implications and uses of the data and that each side has a full picture of what the other side is all about.”

“The term partner is overused,” says Stabile. “You have to do many things before you can claim to be partners. You have to build trust, maintain respect, and work through conflict. Those core issues have to be resolved first.”

While the companies we spoke to were unanimous about the quality of their finance-IT interactions, they often had the benefit of the CFO having hired a CIO he felt confident with. Saucony’s Umana and Ward had worked together previously at Andersen, so they have a particularly high comfort level. The question for other companies will be whether CFOs and CIOs who are thrown together can quickly build the trust and respect that, as Stabile says, underlie true partnerships.

Scott Leibs is the editor of CFO IT.

All Together Now
Communication between your company’s
CFO and CIO/CTO is:
Good 31%
Fairly good 41%
Horrible 2%
Don’t know 12%
How well does IT sell technology projects to financial executives?
Well 24%
Fairly well 40%
Poorly 17%
Horribly 2%
Don’t know 17%
Source: Cutter Consortium
Agreement, of a Sort
CIOs and business managers are equally polarized on how difficult or easy it is to align IT spending with business goals.
Alignment is: IT executives Business managers
Easy 38% 42%
Neither easy nor difficult 24% 26%
Difficult 38% 32%
Source: Accenture

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