May 11, 2010, 1:31 PM — Who's the top IT decision-maker inside companies today: The CIO, right? Ahhh, no. The CEO? Guess again. The CTO? Nope.
Try the CFO.
(Just letting that one sink in a bit.)
According to new survey research from Gartner and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), CFOs are "increasingly becoming the top technology investment decision maker in many organizations," notes the announcement. In total, 482 senior finance managers responded to the 2010 Gartner/FERF technology study.
The study revealed that 42 percent of organizations reported that their IT department (and, presumably, the CIO) reports to the CFO, 33 percent to the CEO, 16 percent to the COO, 2 percent to a chief administrative officer, and 7 percent to other officers. (This stands in marked contrast to CIO magazine's 2010 State of the CIO data, which found that 43 percent of CIOs report to CEOs, and just 19 percent report to CFOs. Why the difference in data? Gartner/FERF surveyed CFOs and finance execs, and we surveyed CIOs, yet one wouldn't think people would confuse, or lie about, their reporting relationships. Do CFOs figure such a result would only help in their power grab?)
In addition, the Gartner/FERF report sheds light on how CFOs view their roles and organizational oversight responsibilities today:
In 41 percent of organizations, the senior financial executives (mostly CFOs) who responded to the survey viewed themselves as being the main decision maker for IT investments. This response occurred in most situations where IT reports to the CFO, but it also occurred in other reporting models. In another 34 percent, CFOs are among the key recommending/sponsoring executives. Thus, in 75 percent of firms, the CFO plays a vital role in determining IT investment.
One interpretation of the survey data is that many chief bean counters are trying to both centralize and expand their corporate authority, using the IT function and its 21st-century business influence to bolster their own power base inside the executive suite. This would not be a dumb move for CFOs, though it seems like a major setback for CIOs trying to raise their profile in the executive suite.