CFOs don't have faith in IT, but boards do: Gartner surveys

Recent surveys find corporate board directors have much greater expectations than chief financial executives in CIOs and information technology departments. Who's more in touch?
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

Two separate Gartner surveys come to different conclusions about what senior corporate executives think about IT. NY office high rise - photo by Joe McKendrick

Chief financial executives, the analyst firm says, have very low expectations for CIOs and information technology departments.

Corporate-level boards, on the other hand, have very high expectations of their IT people.

The CFO study, conducted jointly by Gartner and Financial Executives International, covered the views of 344 CFOs. NetworkWorld's Ellen Messmer delivers the bad news:

"Only about a quarter of the CFOs had confidence that their own IT organization 'has the organizational and technical flexibility to respond to changing business priorities,' or 'is able to deliver against the enterprise/business unit strategy.... '  less than a quarter of the CFOs felt the IT department 'delivers the technology innovation needed by the business,' or that it 'has the right mix of skilled people to meet business needs.' And in the final act of disdain, only 18% of the CFOs said they thought 'our IT service levels meet or exceed business expectations.'"

The corporate board survey, conducted jointly by Gartner and Forbes, covered the views of 96 company directors. Gartner delivers the encouraging news in a recent press release:

"In the midst of a belief that tough times lie ahead, more boards of directors are saying that they expect a high to extremely high strategic contribution of IT in 2012, according to the Gartner Forbes 2011 U.S. Board of Directors Survey. The expectations of 'high' to 'extremely high' strategic contributions of IT climbed from 32 percent of survey respondents for 2010 to 66 percent for 2012....  'The pursuit of higher impact for IT in an environment of budget constraint is one that insists on rewriting the rules for how IT acts,' said Jorge Lopez, vice president and distinguished analyst at Gartner. 'There are two dimensions: IT productivity, where the internal operations and structure of IT itself are restructured to perform at a cost vastly different from the competition, and the entrepreneurial CIO scenario, where the IT organization takes a leadership position to rewrite the rules of competition for the industry. To meet the expectations that have risen will require rethinking about how IT operates.'"

Message to IT from these two surveys: Everyone is expecting a lot more from information technology to get them through -- and help them thrive -- in the hyper-competitive times that lay before us. IT departments that continue to be perceived as expense or merely support centers may not get the respect they deserve.  Entrepreneurial thinking is encouraged, and even expected.

(Photo: World Financial Center, NY. By Joe McKendrick.)

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