Banking

One CIO's strategy for battling accountants

If IT has an arch-enemy in an organization, it's usually finance. We have strategies and solutions that can help make the business more efficient, but accountants are often too concerned with the bottom line. Here's how one CIO deals with accountants.

If IT has an archenemy in an organization, it's usually finance. We have strategies and solutions that can help make the business more efficient, but accountants are often too concerned with the bottom line. Here's how one CIO deals with accountants.

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One of the bad things about IT, at least from a dollars-and-cents view, is that implementing technology doesn't come cheap. Because finance and accounting's entire role revolves around making sure that corporate dollars are used efficiently and because they're often tasked with increasing short-term quarterly profits rather than long-term investments, often their goals come in conflict with those of IT. Getting new systems approved for purchase can sometimes turn into an epic battle.

When I was a network administrator for a manufacturing company, finance had its hands so much in IT that I reported to the local finance director in a  dotted-line fashion at the same time I did our IT manager. This often led to conflicts of trying to justify purchases and figuring out how to expense and move things around to keep the accountants happy. This isn't an unusual occurrence, and it's affecting CIOs as well. An article in BNET discusses the increasing trend of CIO's reporting to CFOs in organizations.

Your organization is probably the same way. In order to get things approved by finance, you need to have a strategy. The one that usually works best involves putting the technology in terms that they can understand.  A properly written business case and well-defended return on investments (ROIs) can help finance people understand the needs for the big bucks you're trying to extract from them.

Let's go to the video

This video comes from ZDNet's CIO Vision series. The CIO Vision series features interviews with CIOs across many different organizations and discusses the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.

This particular video features Millennium & Copthorne Hotel Vice President for IT, Eli Salant. Mr. Salant discusses some of the innovative technlogies that they use in the hotel business to help make customers' stays better. In particular, he discusses how he convinced board members to spend on technology instead of refurbishments. He also discusses using ROI as a weapon against accountants who are too focused on current expenses instead of long-term investments.

How do you deal with finance?

How do you get purchases past the head bean counter in your organization? Is finance on your side, or do you have to battle with them on a regular basis to get technology approved? Share your strategies in the comment section below.

4 comments
stevengirardpalmer
stevengirardpalmer

IT reporting into Finance is old news, and it's not necessarily bad, especially if the IT leader then learns how to prepare a proposal and how to work with other unit heads. For IT leaders in the office, ALL exchanges need to be in business terms, else get out of the office. Any CIO first needs a relationship with Finance, Audit and Legal to be a good corporate citizen and a game-changer! Steve Palmer CIO, OptHome www.opthome.com

scottneill
scottneill

There every where accountants.... I work for them. IT Admin for a large accouting firm. Im fortunate that they see IT as a neccesity not an expense. We were one of the first businesses in our region to adopt computers and since then we have always tried to stay on top of IT. We are meddling in Virtualisation, Sharepoint and so forth.

bkfordham
bkfordham

Well I've worked in IT for 12 years as a Sys Admin / Analyst and programmer in manufacturing and construction, mostly alone. I've allways reported to the controller or VP of Finance. It has been difficult and at times had help from other external divisional IT managers who carried some weight. Other times I would work with other internal division managers who I was really doing the work for and they helped justify and explain things to Finance. Overall I think Acc and Fin. stick their heads into things too much they don't understand. This slows down progress. I once had an user struggling on Autocad for over a year, then one day the controller finally spent a morning working with her on something and I guess saw first hand how slow the machine was...so he calls me to get her a new computer. Her productivity was a at least 300% more but this only happened because the controller finally took a look and could have been done much sooner. Later he upgraded his finance clerks computers and still ingnored the engineers, 'they don't even know how to use Autocad' he says. Well they never will with the machines they have will they ? By now I'm sure most have good computers. Those are nothing compared to the issued I had dealing with new / changes to MRP systems and the like. To conclude, you can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink. So I'm studying to become an accountant and so far things are going forward...maybe I will help more later to bridge some gaps. Perhaps I will relate to them better.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

In some organizations, there's a never-ending battle between IT and Finance. In some organizations, IT reports to Finance. In either case, when it comes to getting technology projects approved, it can often be a struggle. In Decision Central, I posted a video from ZDNet's CIO Sessions Vision series featuring an interview with CIO Eli Salant which discusses how he overcomes resistance from accountants: http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/decisioncentral/?p=145 How do you get purchases past the head bean-counter in your organization? Is finance on your side, or do you have to battle with them on a regular basis to get technology approved. Share your strategies here.

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