IT And Financial Need To Cooperate, But It's Not Always The Case - InformationWeek

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9/30/2003
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IT And Financial Need To Cooperate, But It's Not Always The Case

Participants at the IntelligentBPM conference say it's vital for a business to have the CIO and CFO see eye to eye.

How important is it that the CIO and IT staff see eye to eye with the CFO and financial staff? Quite important, according to the participants of a panel at IntelligentBPM, a business-intelligence conference that made its debut in San Francisco this week with 450 attendees.

Sean Moriarity, executive VP of technology at Ticketmaster, said Monday he works closely with his CFO and couldn't imagine a business functioning well otherwise.

Greg Ayers, former CFO of SAP Portals, said he works well with the company's CIO. "Good relations between the CIO and CFO sets a tone of knowledge sharing and working toward common goals," which benefits the enterprise, he noted.

But if the business runs better when IT and the CFO work together, panel moderator Stuart Robbins asked, "why in some instances does it all go wrong?"

Robbins, director of the CIO Collective, a nonprofit association of senior IT managers, said he recently talked to a client who was about to install a $300,000 Hyperion business-intelligence system for the CFO and his staff. But the finance office wasn't going to rely on the IT department to do it. Robbins said he was told, "They're too busy, and besides we have two technically savvy people who could handle the implementation."

Robbins then asked the panel what was wrong with such a scenario.

Tama Olver, CIO of Applera Corp., said there was often a culture gap between the technology staff and the financial staff. "A lot of technologists are high-risk-takers. They have a lot of fun seeing if they can make things work. The people in finance are not high-risk-takers," she said.

"It's an issue of trust. The CFO is saying, 'I don't want to bring those IT guys in. They'll spend 15 years talking about databases'" and not get the job done, said Rob Kugel, analyst with Ventana Research, a business-intelligence market-research firm.

"I think the staffs of both the CIO and CFO suffer from a breach of trust going on elsewhere in the company," said George Lin, CIO of document-management software maker Documentum Inc. "It's easier to point the finger at my partner" than admit to a problem yourself.

Both high-level executives can take actions that ensure better working relations, said Carol Brown, business professor at Indiana University. Their staffs can train together and the staff can be intentionally mixed. "You can decide who sits next to whom," she said.

When the CFO who was implementing Hyperion said the IT staff was "too busy," he was also saying he didn't "view the CIO as a friend with expertise, so, of course, you don't pick up the phone and ask for help," Olver said. "Finance probably can implement Hyperion in their own world. But somebody needs to integrate it with the rest of the organization." The bigger issue is not whether it will run on behalf of the finance staff but whether it will work with the other systems that will need to interact with it.

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