It is a sad fact of the IT world that everything requires money. No matter how cool the new technology would be to have, no matter how critical the update or change may be, you are not going to be getting or doing anything about it unless you have the funds to spend.
In the modern corporation, all funds start in the office of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He/she reports to the CEO and at the end of the day, no money flows in the company unless the CFO says that it can. Darn it – can’t he/she see how critical your IT project is and just give you the funding that you need?
Elizabeth Millard over at Baseline magazine took the time to talk with CFOs in order to find out what we IT’ers need to do differently. It turns out that what we have here is a failure to communicate. Specifically, we in IT have a bad habit of telling the CFO what we are trying to do and our proposals are generally not very well put together.
What we seem to be failing to do is to look at how a CFO views the world. Everyone is coming to him/her asking for funding. They need to come up with a way to quickly accept or reject a request.
If a proposal crosses their desk that has the support of the CEO, then it has a pretty good chance of getting funded. However, if the proposal that the CFO is looking at is a low priority project or if the proposal is lacking any sort of clear time line for showing results, then you can pretty much forget about it being funded.
The burden of clearly explaining what an IT project is going do in simple, straightforward business language is the responsibility of the IT department – it’s not the CFO’s responsibility to learn our language. At the end of the day, we need to be able to describe what impact on the firm’s business goals, security, customer relationships, and worker productivity is going to be.
In order to capture the CFO’s attention, we need to be able to talk to them in terms that will catch their attention. This means that every IT project needs to be able to do three things simultaneously: minimize IT staffing levels, increase customer satisfaction, and (of course) save the firm money.
In the world of corporate finance, surprises are most unwelcome. A proposal should never show up on a CFO’s desk without having been well advertised in advance. This means that you need to set up a regular set of meetings between the CFO and IT management in order to keep the CFO appraised of IT challenges and initiatives.
IT and the finance department actually have a lot in common. Both are committed to making the company successful. Areas of overlap include managing services provided by the firm, storage of company records, disaster recovery and business continuity planning, regulatory compliance and discovery initiatives, and security.
No IT project ever gets done in a flash – there are always phases to our projects. These phases need to be carefully spelled out to the CFO and the value to the firm that the project will provide at the end of each phase needs to be clearly stated.
One final thought: a great way to get a CFO to NOT approve your project is to tell the CFO that the project is urgent and then ask him / her to quickly make a decision. More often than not they will – NO!
Take your time and talk with the CFO to make sure that he/she understands how much the project will cost, what risks it comes with, and what you expect the outcome to be. This is your best path to getting the CFO to approve the IT funding that your projects so desperately need.
What is your IT department’s relationship with your CFO today? Do you have regular meetings with your CFO to keep him/her up-to-date on IT initiatives or do you surprise the CFO with funding requests? How many of your project funding requests does the CFO approve and how many does the CFO reject? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.