I have seen the extremes of the Finance/IT relationship during my career as an FP&A professional. When I first started navigating the Finance space, any and all systems were ‘owned’ by IT. That’s simply how it was. There was this love/hate relationship between the two and we each thought of the other as a necessary evil. We learned to live together but there was this constant tug-of-war over the constraints of the project management triangle; time, cost, and scope. As Financial systems became easier to administer and Finance professionals became more tech savvy, the pendulum shifted and we started to move ownership of certain financial systems to the Finance team itself. I hired technical resources in my team to manage and build my systems since I could control things better that way. Finance began to own the planning, reporting, and analytics systems, but IT still owned(s) the source systems (GL, P2P, AR, FA). I am ok with this.
Planning, reporting, and analytics systems are forward looking and, as such, do not have the same regulations as the other systems. In FP&A, we need to be free to make quick changes and create “what-if” analyses to our hearts content without constantly going through the proverbial “red tape”. (To be clear, as I’ve pointed out in past blogs, data governance is still very important and this is not the Wild West.) The collective “we” do not have the same luxury with our systems of record, however. Those need to maintain the rigor and tight controls that exist today and, oftentimes, our IT organizations are better suited for that. While I am comfortable with the division of responsibilities today, I feel as if we have separated the two functions too much. In the extreme cases, I have seen this create a disjointed approach to IT initiatives. As Sebastian Grady points out in CFO’s “How to Build a Strategic Relationship with the CIO”, it is very important to create and foster a shared vision between Finance and IT, so you can work with each other rather than against each other. “Finance chiefs and IT leaders should be jointly responsible for aligning technology opportunities with business strategy,” commented Grady. He also speaks about forging a relationship with IT and being “the bridge to a contextually rich CEO/CFO/CIO relationship.”
This should extend beyond the CFO and CIO. Think of this as the CFO’s team and the CIO’s team. FP&A lives at the intersection of the C-suite offices and we are uniquely qualified to forge those relationships. Make sure you take the requisite time to get to know your peers in the other functional areas. Partner with someone on that team and shadow them during their respective busy time so you get a clear picture of their responsibilities. Once you have that understanding, which only comes from intellectual curiosity, you can work together to align technological initiatives with business strategy. In your quest to drive profitable growth, make sure to stay abreast of new technologies that can help make this a reality. Work directly with your CIO to make sure that the latest IT proposal provides a solid ROI while achieving overarching strategic business goals at the same time.
Later in the article, Grady discusses how to “flip the IT roadmap on its ear.” He describes how Finance and IT can work together to create an IT roadmap that supports your business strategies and goals. There are some interesting examples in there that are thought-provoking and worth the read. None of those examples will work until you bridge the gap between the functional areas and recognize that you are stronger together. That shared vision must be rooted in mutual respect and “…a joint understanding of financial and technological strategies…” Once again, clear, concise communication wins the day.