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IT Leadership // CIO Insights & Innovation
Commentary
8/17/2007
02:48 PM
John Soat
John Soat
Commentary
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Quality Is Job One For CIOs

Wasn't there a car commercial that used the tagline, "Quality is Job #1"? Well, according to a survey of chief financial officers, that is Job #1 for CIOs. Data quality, that is.

Wasn't there a car commercial that used the tagline, "Quality is Job #1"? Well, according to a survey of chief financial officers, that is Job #1 for CIOs. Data quality, that is.According to Computer Sciences Corp.'s most recent "Technology Issues For Financial Executives" survey, improving data quality and information integrity was the most frequently cited "critical" technology concern, checked off by 58% of survey respondents. The survey, which CSC conducted with the help of the research arm of Financial Executives International, polled 653 top finance execs on their most pressing technology-related issues. This is CSC's ninth iteration of the annual survey.

"CFOs are acutely aware of the data quality/information integrity issue. It's one of the major ongoing hidden costs in most businesses," Jerry Boltin, leader of the business intelligence practice in CSC's consulting group, said in a statement. "In many organization, poor-quality data limits the ability to develop decision-quality information and analytics to improve business performance, and it can have other broad-reaching business implications."

Surprisingly, the No. 1 one concern last year (and the year before that) -- information security -- fell to number four, with less than 50% of the finance execs citing it as their top technology concern. CSC ascribes that to a greater comfort level by CFOs with the scope of security problems and the steps taken in their organizations to address it. In that case, I've got three little letters for you: T-J-X.

As for spending on technology, the survey says that CFOs anticipate modest increases in IT budgets in the next year. Being the self-serving so-and-sos they are, finance execs plan to continue "significant levels of spending" to improve their "analytical information environments" in areas like profitability analysis, performance measurement, and planning/forecasting. That's good news for business-intelligence and data mining software vendors like Business Objects, Cognos, and SAS.

However, 52% report "constraint" in discretionary IT spending. "Many CFOs are faced with the daunting paradox of not being able to afford the IT investments necessary to improve business performance, while the investments are necessary to meet shareholder expectations," said Boltin.

Wait a minute: CFOs are faced with that daunting paradox?! When it comes to the effectiveness of IT and the budget necessary to make that happen, who's butt is really on the line here? It's the exec with the "I" in the middle of the acronym, not an "F."

One last thing: According to the CFOs, the top three areas where their IT organizations fall short are project management, communication, and "understanding the business/IT relationship." Ouch! You mean to tell me, after all the hand wringing that's gone on over IT-business alignment, CFOs still think CIOs don't get it? That hurts.

If your CFO thinks you don't understand the business, you need to do something about that quick. That person is the one who puts "discretionary" and "IT spending" together in the same sentence. After all, the hand that holds the purse strings rules the world.

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