CFOs increasingly involved in IT investment decisions

Chief finance officer's role in technology decision-making grew last year, with greater involvement and engagement in IT priorities, and recognition of need for improved technology support for these key business processes, survey reveals.

The chief financial officer (CFO) is increasingly the lead decision-maker in IT investment of many organizations, according to a joint study by Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF).

Released Monday, the study revealed that the CFO's role in technology decision-making increased last year, with 44 perent of CFOs stating their influence over IT investment had grown, while 47 percent said that it remained the same and 9 percent of respondents felt their influence had decreased.

The survey, conducted between October 2011 and February 2012, polled 255 CFO respondents and was designed to gather perceptions from financial executives about the economic environment, their role in technology and their IT investment priorities.

It also found CFOs had been involved in IT buying decisions in many ways. Some 41 percent said they were the actual leader of a group responsible for IT investments, and another 41 percent were part of a group responsible for IT decision-making. Another 16 percent provided advice and 1 percent said they were the sole decision-maker. The large majority had been involved in group decision-making regarding IT, indicating engaging the CFO was a critical issue.

Business intelligence, analytics and performance management had been the top of the list of areas in which CFOs would like to invest in, according to the study.

CFOs said they recognized the need for improved technology support for these key business processes and identified top business process areas which needed technology investment. Some 57 percent pointed to the ability to facilitate analysis and decision-making , followed by 52 percent which highlighted collaboration and knowledge management.

"While CFOs certainly appreciate reduced cost through the more efficient delivery of IT, organizations need to understand that CFOs want technology investment that they can see business value from in the form of improved business processes," Bill Sinnett, director of research at FERF, said in a statement. "Therefore, their priorities are largely focused on analytics and business applications."

CFOs also need to explain to CIOs the IT capabilities needed by the finance function, Sinnett pointed out. There were opportunities for both roles to form an alliance and generate more value for the enterprise, he said, noting that both were well-positioned to work together to facilitate superior performance from enterprise IT investments. He added that  this performance was usually not achieved due to poor percetion of IT, a "parochial" CFO or CIO perspective, or a failure to invest in the CFO-CIO relationship.