A recent study of finance chiefs at over 200 companies revealed that one in six expect the job of CIO to be gone within five years. More than twice that many (40%) expected that IT will eventually be folded into the finance department. This highlights the impact of trends like BYOD, the consumerization of IT, and the growing importance of cloud services.
As IT departments struggle to deal with an ever-increasing influx of iPhones, iPads, Android devices, and other “consumer” technologies, this raises big questions. Would handing management of IT over to a CFO with limited technical experience help or hinder Apple’s position as a business vendor? Would that drive BYOD programs or inhibit them? Would this ultimately be beneficial to most employees at a company?
The view leading to this merging of IT seems to be centered around finance managers taking a more active role in other departments as part of cost cutting efforts resulting from the state of the economy over the past few years. As a major cost center that typically has no clear return on investment, IT is a natural choice for scrutiny. Add to the fact that cloud services are making it easier to outsource or streamline many IT functions, and you’ve got a recipe for CFOs to consider taking charge and doing some serious cost cutting.
If the traditional CIO or IT director role is cut, there likely will be more re-imagining of how to provide and manage technology with an emphasis on reducing large infrastructure and personnel expenditures. Without a long experience of what IT has looked like for the past few decades, finance chiefs may very well be open to bigger and faster shifts than the typical IT leader whose been knee-deep in the field for years on end.
That could be good or bad. It certainly improves the likelihood that technologies and approaches disruptive of long-standing models will be considered and adopted. That could easily translate into a more platform-agnostic way of doing things, particularly since cloud services are generally not tied to specific devices or operating systems. That means more potential for things like the iPad and iPhone, particularly if they’re employee-owned.
On the other hand, most finance teams will probably do more extensive number crunching of all options to see if things like BYOD programs, mobile app deployment, mobility in general, or transitions to one or more cloud technologies are worth the investment. If any of these new approaches turn out to have hidden costs and/or be more expensive, someone whose job is centered on financial leadership is going to be harder to convince to pursue them.
With cost and productivity forefront, however, this type of transition might end up being a win for users. If various department managers (or even users themselves) can make a compelling case or even offer proof that new devices and technologies like iPhones, iPads, Mac and specific iOS or OS X apps can offer ways to get work done more efficiently, they’re more likely to be allowed to try them.
Whether a CFO has the knowledge or skills to make sound IT decisions is a different matter entirely, particularly when it comes to things like network and device management, security, or even technical support.