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What CFOs want IT managers to know now

In a down economy, IT isn't going anywhere without Finance. Here's what CFOs would like you to know before you come knocking.

By Mary K. Pratt
October 27, 2010 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - You can't run a company without technology, but you can't invest in technology without the blessings of the finance department. And thanks to the long-stagnant economy, the pendulum of power between Finance and IT is swinging decidedly toward the chief financial officer's door these days.

money honey

"The power dynamic in the C-suite really does change when the economic times are difficult," says Bob Martins, a CFO partner at Tatum LLC, an executive services firm headquartered in Atlanta. "And right now any kind of spending decision requires much more scrutiny."

All of which means now is an excellent time for you, as an IT manager, to really listen to what Finance has to say. To make that job a little easier, Computerworld asked several CFOs what message they'd most like to get through to their top technologists. Here's their advice.

Say goodbye to bells and whistles

During better economic times, Don MacKenzie, CFO and chief operating officer at Accounting Management Solutions Inc., a professional services firm in Waltham, Mass., could be convinced to buy a more expensive system if it offered nice-to-have usability options or extra functionality.

But these days, the age-old battle between cost and functionality is being won by cost. So when his company needed new customer relationship management software, MacKenzie told his CIO at the outset, "Maybe we don't need the Cadillac. Our problem might be better solved using a Chevy solution."

As he always has, in good times and bad, MacKenzie expected the CIO to deliver an analysis that looked at several systems, detailing how much each one cost, what features each one offered and what type of ROI each one could be expected to deliver. But with the financial pressure on, MacKenzie admits the weight was almost all on the cost side of the equation.

"I'm not suggesting that there wouldn't have been a financial analysis [in the past]," MacKenzie continues, "but the focus then would have been more on functionality and on [the software's] tie-in to other applications. That might have overridden the financial considerations," he says.

These days, that's not the case. One of the options the CIO presented was "a 300-pound gorilla with all the bells," MacKenzie says, "but [after] we did the analysis, we went with an appropriate one that was a lot cheaper."

Play with the toys you already have

Tibco Software Inc. in Palo Alto, Calif., has made significant investments in IT in the past, and one of those was the acquisition of an ERP system. So before Executive Vice President and CFO Sydney Carey opens the coffers to buy more hardware or software, she wants to make sure that the company is making full use of its current resources.

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