Dr. Chris Boorman, CMO, Automic Software
It is time for IT to rightfully claim the share of the boardroom it has earned by being so integral to business today. Whereas in the past IT was seen as a cost center, it is now a crucial part of company strategy. MIT Sloan School of Management surveyed board members of large corporations, who estimate that 32% of their company’s revenue will be under threat in the next five years because of digital disruption. For these reasons, skilled IT management and a close link between IT and the board are of utmost importance in the digital age.
In theory, CTOs and CIOs should have the greatest possible influence on overarching corporate strategy. However, many IT leaders still report to the CFO rather than directly to the CEO. The CFO represents a layer of communication between IT and the CEO that must be passed, which can limit the influence of IT on the business. Rather than being seen as a hindrance, IT must see this relationship as a vital opportunity.
Dean Lane, founder of the Office of the CIO, says: “When the CIO reports to the CFO and deals with these other executives, the CIO is looking up. In other words, he or she is dealing up from a down position. So in this situation, the CIO has to rely significantly on the CFO and his and her relationship with those other executives.” Lane estimates that around 70% of CIOs in the US report to a CFO.
Why does IT still report to the CFO? Well, when computers were first invented they were used as number crunchers for finance. So CFOs were made responsible for IT. Historically, CTOs were once merely heads of research centers that were separate from the rest of the business.
CFOs by definition think in monetary terms. While they are keen to improve the company’s image, technology for them is a means to an end. You might hear recommendations to brush up on business language, but a better way to land and expand the CFO’s trust is by talking their language: by discussing with them how to save the company money.
Doing more with less is the ultimate way for IT to serve the business, which we mustn’t forget is its main role. When IT becomes more important than the business then we have a problem.
Automation is an excellent example of how IT can serve business needs across the enterprise. It’s an opportunity to directly influence the budget, to cut out superfluous manual tasks and save the company time and money. For instance, insurance company Genworth automated 1,300 tasks in their month-end close process, reducing the time it takes by 74% and saving over 100 man-days per year. This is contributing in the language a CFO understands.
Making such a direct impact on an ongoing basis will inevitably build trust between IT and key decision makers. In short, it will bring IT closer to the business.
“We call ourselves business IT,” said panellist Pablo Ciano, CIO at DHL Express Americas headquartered in Bonn, Germany (speaking to searchcio.techtarget.com). “We are sitting at the intersection of the business and technology.”
Lane comments: “CIOs need to understand that there’s no such thing as an IT project. Everything is done for the business. CIOs understand this at some level. If you talk to any CIO, they will tell you that the technology portion of a project is 10% in terms of complexity or difficulty. The other 90% is the business side of it.”
Business automation includes workload automation and service orchestration, which both transform how your company is run today. Release automation makes it possible to achieve continuous delivery, allowing the company the agility needed express their future strategy at pace and ad hoc.
Perhaps most importantly, automation allows your company to deal with any disruption the digital age can, and will, throw at it. It is a rare chance to align IT to the business and strengthen IT’s relationship with the CFO. IT management is in a critical position to taking advantage of disruptive advances in technology, rather than reacting when the gap in the market has passed.
About the Author:
Dr. Chris Boorman, CMO, Automic Software
Chris is responsible for Automic’s worldwide marketing. Prior to joining Automic, he served as chief marketing officer for cloud collaboration vendor Huddle, and data integration leader Informatica. He has more than 20 years of experience leading international teams at enterprise companies including SDL, salesforce.com, VERITAS and Oracle.