CIO role set to disappear, according to CFOs

By Sooraj Shah
27 Feb 2012 View Comments

Nearly half (43 per cent) of 203 senior finance professionals in the UK believe that the CIO role will merge with the CFO role, according to a study released by IT services provider Getronics.

The research also found that 17 per cent of the finance professionals thought that the CIO role would disappear altogether.

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The study was the focus of a Getronics roundtable discussion asking the question ‘Is the CFO the new CIO?'

The study showed that 77 per cent of CFOs have claimed greater responsibility for IT decisions in the past one to two years.

"CFOs have looked at IT more because there is an increase in IT projects meaning more money is being spent. This means the CFO has to look over the project," said Karl Howarth, CFO of P&O Ferries.

Howarth believes that many IT projects have failed because rather than focusing on how they will benefit the business, they have focused on the technology on offer. 

"This means there needs to be someone with a commercial insight [such as the CFO] that can also look at the plans," he said.

Trevor Hanna, CIO of Associated British Foods, disputed this assumption.

"The CIO role seems easy at the outset but a CFO would find it more difficult than anticipated if given an IT role," he said.

Hanna said that CIOs have to be stubborn in order to get their ideas across.

"Although CFOs may be looking at a project from a commercial angle, they may not see the same benefits as CIOs; especially because many of the benefits are hard to quantify," he said.

Howarth said that the soft skills necessary to be a CIO do not differ greatly from those of a CFO but he accepted that the knowledge of technology and translating it into business value is harder to grasp.

"It is not about what the right answer is [for an IT project], it's what gives you the most options. How it will affect the future and which doors it closes and opens," he said.

Hanna questioned why a CFO would want to take on a CIO role.

"Are they interested in technology? Or in the issues of technology? Have they got a cost problem or a problem with the service? It depends on what part of the role they want to tackle," he said.

The online survey was conducted by independent consultancy Longhouse and took into account the views of 203 senior finance professionals in UK organisations that employ over 1,000 people.

The Getronics study follows similar research from Gartner last year in its annual Financial Executives International Technology Study.



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