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Is the CFO the new CIO?

Will the role of the CIO cease to exist in 5 years’ time? Getronics research reveals CFOs’ predictions on the changing nature of the CIO’s role

Farnborough, UK – The role of the CIO in its current capacity will not exist in five years’ time according to research findings revealed by Getronics today. The survey of 203 key financial decision makers in companies of 1,000 employees or more, found that almost one in five CFOs (17%) believe that the role of the CIO as it currently stands is in jeopardy. A further 43% of financial decision makers believe that the role will merge more with finance and a third (31%) believe that CIOs will come from a non-technical background.

The changing role of the CIO:

The role of the CIO has already been subject to a number of changes in recent years, with 77% of CFOs and Financial Directors claiming that they have already assumed greater responsibility for IT decisions over the past 1-2 years. Indeed, respondents revealed that 38% of businesses that have rolled out a cloud computing solution had the project initiated directly by the finance department, rather than IT. A further 39% stated that they had been directly involved in cloud projects, but only after the IT department had initiated it. This trend can be attributed, in part, to the attractive utility model of cloud services, where companies avoid long-term contracts and can track ROI and costs far more accurately.

Finance and the cloud:

The research also reveals that CFOs and other financial decision makers are increasing their technology understanding, with only 2% admitting they “were not aware of the term cloud computing”, whilst the majority able to provide a meaningful description of its use. This reveals the increasing efforts from finance to truly understand technology and can be seen to be creating opportunities for the CIO to gain company-wide buy-in for cloud services as business requirements evolve.

CFO and CIO integration:

When it comes to understanding of their own roles, two out of five (38%) CFOs and Financial Directors believe that CIOs do not hold a good level of financial understanding. Surprisingly, 40% also believed that their CIOs need a greater understanding of the IT function itself. Compounding this lack of understanding of both roles, more than half (56%) of the CFOs and Financial Directors surveyed believe that a lack of integration between finance and IT limits the impact on cost savings achievable from IT projects within their business. This reveals the need for greater integration between the two departments which is a growing development in business with nearly half (48%) citing a trend towards closer integration. Simultaneously, however, some businesses are at the opposite end of the scale with 35% of businesses citing a decrease.

CFO concerns for IT spending:

The research also revealed the top IT spending concerns for CFOs and Financial Directors. Maintenance of IT infrastructure was the key concern, with two-thirds (64%) of respondents claiming this was an ongoing challenge for their businesses. A further 48% stated that were concerned by the level of expenditure paid to consultancies, whilst 47% stated that licence payments for software was a major headache. As the CIO role continues to evolve, it is likely that the consultancy for businesses will be driven internally with outsourced consultancy decreasing.

“The role of the CIO has often been a point of contention within many organisations since its very inception,” says Mark Cook, CEO, Getronics UK. “Some of us in the industry will remember when the first IT roles were created in business and that these were predominately always within finance. It’s only in recent years that we’ve seen IT as a standalone department and we’re now seeing it come full circle, with one crucial difference: the CIO today is responsible for greater levels of innovation than ever before. We’re seeing CIOs moving away from previous years of having to lead on daily IT operations and maintenance into that of a provider of strategic consultancy to finance and the wider business. Only by freeing up CIOs from the day-to-day burden of managing assets will organisations be able to truly realise the value that a CIO can bring to their business.”

The full findings of the research are unveiled today in a new Getronics report, The Changing Role of the CFO, which is available for download at http://getronics.com/knowledge-share/download/whitepapers.php. 203 key financial decision makers working in the UK for companies with 1,000 or more employees were interviewed for the survey.

The report has received significant media coverage:

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