Get CFO Input Long Before the Proposal

By Elizabeth Millard Print this article Print

How to bridge the gap between the budgetary needs of technology projects with the funding decisions your CFO envisions for the business.

CFO Input, Long Before the Proposal

In addition to being able to speak clearly about an initiative’s benefits, there should also be a complete lack of surprise, says Logicalis’ Baker: “If a capital expenditure hits my desk, it shouldn’t be the first I’ve heard about it. Too often at companies, there isn’t enough informal dialogue about what issues are coming up in the near future. And that’s why good opportunities get missed.”

Baker suggests that CFOs and technology executives meet at least once each quarter to chat about specific concerns, such as a potential lack of data storage space, or higher-than-expected labor costs with IT employees. Involving the CFO early and often can help to shape initiative proposals, and get them approved.

The areas in which IT and CFOs can work together most effectively are security, regulatory compliance, business continuity, storage management and service management, according to Patrick Zelten, vice president of professional services at Forsythe Solutions Group, a technology consulting firm.

“Understanding business needs surrounding an area like storage management can have dramatic effects,” he says. “The two groups can work together to set priorities and get the maximum value out of the IT spend.”

Another important aspect is an abundance of detail, which doesn’t mean technical information, but rather, an explanation of how the project will proceed through numerous phases. “One of my pet peeves is seeing a capital request that completely lacks justification for the numbers, with no clearly painted financial benefits,” notes Baker.

Details about disk features or software upgrade advantages also leave him cold, he adds. Like other CFOs, he’d rather see case studies of other companies that have spent the money and benefited from the results, or a survey of customers about what type of technology-fueled changes they’d like to see.

Another advantage in a proposal is an articulation of outcomes at various stages of a project, not just as the ultimate goal. “A fatal flaw can be trying to wrap too much into one large outcome,” Baker says. “Instead, there have to be milestones and measurable phases.”

Pressing for a fast decision and putting a sense of urgency into the project is also a sure way to get the CFO veto, Baker says. He finds fast-track requests to be suspicious, particularly if he hasn’t heard about the project in the past.

Finally, a large part of informal and formal discussions should center around general expectations, with a healthy amount of realistic goal-setting, Zelten adds. This includes thoughts on how a project might fit in with others already in progress, or with goals in other departments, such as sales and distribution.

“There’s much that can be done [to help] a CFO to understand technology’s role and for IT to understand the business,” he says. “You can’t talk enough about risk, cost and outcomes on both sides.” 

This article was originally published on 2008-06-11
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