Why the CFO Wields More IT Clout Than You Think

By  Jessica Binns — June 28, 2011

Do you ever wonder what your chief financial officer thinks about IT or how much influence financial execs wield in technology investments and mobility decisions? Gartner teamed up with Financial Executives International to find out, polling 344 CFOs, treasurers, controllers and other top-level executives to discover the true relationship between finance and information technology in the report The CFO’s Impact on Technology Investment Decisions.
 
The good news first: when it comes to technology investment priorities, mobility initiatives hover near the top of the list. Twenty-one percent of survey respondents list mobile technologies either as their first, second or third most important priority out of 15 priority options in 2011, trailing only BI and analytics; enterprise business apps; data management and storage; and service-oriented architecture.
 
That percentage increases slightly to 23% percent in 2012. Cloud computing is a priority for 17% of executives in 2011, moving up to 21% in 2012. Clearly, financial decision-makers see the importance of these technologies in improving business operations while reducing costs.
 
In related news, 38% of executives expect the economy to grow in 2011 compared to 2010 while 40% believe the economic conditions will be similar to last year. Eighty-nine percent expect that in 2012, IT operational spending will increase or remain at 2011 levels.
 
Increasingly, the CFO has more authority in greenlighting technology investments. In 2010, CFOs either alone or in concert with CEOs authorized 46% of IT investments. That number jumped to 51% in 2011. This may explain why the largest percentage of IT officers—42%—says they report to the CFO, and another 46% indicated that they should report to their financial executives.
 
Financial execs continue to prioritize IT investments that will yield business process efficiencies (72%) and competitive advantages (64%). Eleven percent of respondents are reducing IT staff levels and/or spending, and another 20% are postponing new projects.
 
When it comes to the CFO’s expectations of IT, 35% indicate that IT is responsible for contributing to the enhancement of business operations by using technology proactively to raise business performance. Thirty-two percent of financial executives regard the CIO as a critical partner in determining business strategy. Just 25% of respondents believe that IT has enough qualified personnel to perform as expected, which may explain why only 23% indicate that IT service levels currently meet or exceed expectations.
 
IT executives should seek to understand the enterprise’s needs instead of focusing solely on technological excellence, according to the report, and look for opportunities to improve the relationship between IT and financial decision-makers.

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