March 29, 2012, 11:36 AM — For Gregg Leach, CFO of aircraft overhaul and repair business Able Engineering, the need to involve the IT department on major projects was never questioned. "I've got more background in IT than I do in finance," said the finance chief, whose previous work experience included serving as the CIO of a health care company, and IT positions with finance components.
From that first-hand experience, then, he knew that a close relationship with IT in finance projects with broad company implications "was critical for our decision making."
Ken Hughes, Able's IT manager, couldn't agree more. And as the first case in point he cites how the pair worked together in rolling out cloud-based accounting software last year. A CFO without tech skills, for example, might have purchased software that didn't meet the Phoenix-based company's long-term needs, and assigned IT a limited role, Hughes said.
Companies often thrive when the finance and tech functions work in close harmony these days -- not just in software rollouts, but in an ever-growing number of areas, including data security and adding a tech focus to controling costs. And Able serves as a very good example.
Without the strong bond created between the two men, said Hughes, "I would have had an uphill battle to persuade someone else to go with a cloud solution over what felt comfortable to them, and was really just meeting their requirements." He added, "In my previous experience working with finance, you're filling their spreadsheets, and it's really an arm's-length transaction. Sitting across the table from the bean counters, they don't necessarily understand all the issues. With [Leach] we were able to quickly move through all of them and just get to the point."
That point was the selection of accounting software that would allow for greater data-sharing at the 29-year-old private company, which recorded US$42 million in income last year.
Leach anticipates Able's 2012 income will exceed $50 million. But despite Able's growth, until last April its finance department depended on software traditionally used by a startup, the CFO said. "Basically," he said, "it was a balance sheet and an income statement."
In a joint interview, Leach and Hughes detailed how finance and IT worked in tandem to migrate to a software-as-a-service product Intacct, which develops hosted financial management software.