A CFO Speaks: "I Hate IT"

Every wonder why it takes forever to get capital spend approved?Maybe your CFO doesn't like you.
Written by Robin Harris, Contributor

Every wonder why it takes forever to get capital spend approved? Maybe your CFO doesn't like you.

I had lunch last week in New York with an old friend who is now a CFO. Jim's employer is a mid-sized enterprise that has expanded rapidly in the last decade. He has several hundred people reporting to him and is responsible managing over $1 billion in assets and a large operating budget.

I often read about how IT professionals need to align with business objectives - seemingly an ever-receding goal. So I asked him how he feels about IT. Jim looked at me with a pained expression and said, only half in jest, "I hate it!"

If you are like me, you enjoy technology and the challenges involved in making it work. But Jim isn't a techie. He just wants the stuff to work. And he doesn't have a lot of patience for excuses.

Storage problems get noticed I asked him to give me an example of his pain, "pain points" being popular marketing short hand for the problems customers have.

"I'm working on a large deal on the weekend before Christmas. Lots of files, spreadsheets, documents, projections, legal opinions, due diligence reports all stored on our company system. In the morning when I go to work on it, all of it is gone.

I'm not happy, and I want to make sure the IT director isn't either, so I get him down to the office and make him stay until, finally, I've got it all back. It took hours."

I stifle the impulse to tell him he was lucky. Why freak him out even more?

Fix the customer At one level Jim's attitude is so unfair. Enterprise IT operations get millions of things right every day, so why focus on the negative? Yet from his perspective IT is an expensive and trouble-prone world that he doesn't understand and doesn't have time to understand. He's forced to rely on the people who have the problems to recommend and implement solutions.

If you are serious about "aligning IT with business objectives" you have to understand how IT looks to people like Jim. Good field service people know that first you fix the customer and then you fix the problem. How good are you at fixing your customers?

Comments welcome, agreeing or not.

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