Natural Allies: How Financial Professionals Can Partner with IT

By Sean Stein Smith

Advances in computer, mobile and cloud technology are revolutionizing both the ways that individuals live their lives and how organizations operate in the competitive environment.

More “traditional” tech firms like Google, IBM and Microsoft generate billions in profits, and the “new” tech firms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have taken advantage of the social media phenomenon to grow into multibillion-dollar enterprises themselves. Obviously, IT, and the advances that have occurred in this field, has changed the business world forever, and organizations are looking to harness these advances and turn them into actionable business opportunities.

IT departments are in an unusual position. On one hand, there is an insatiable demand for technology to help drive business processes, and on the other, there is the organizational caution and inertia that many IT departments have embedded into them. This caution and desire to test and build redundancy systems is absolutely valid – after all, if the information is not protected and stored safely, the potential for business disruption is immense.

The fact remains, in spite of such well thought reasons for a more methodical process, the IT sphere of business is changing. Some organizations have even gone so far as to split the IT area into two separate functional units. One unit focuses on traditional IT responsibilities such as data security, network operations, enterprise processes and hardware support. The second area focuses on digital technology, bringing cutting-edge technologies and ideas into the organization.

While this might work in some situations and organizations, it seems to lack the ability to address the underlying business problem. IT is often seen as a necessary evil, and a cost that simply must be incurred. What if this area could be transformed into an area of business productivity and growth?

Partnering with the finance function is a natural fit.

Both areas are respected for knowledge of business processes, analytic abilities and the capability to work with large amounts of quantitative data. By partnering up on initiatives and process improvement ideas, both areas can benefit, deliver value to the organization and enhance the standing of their respective departments with both the management team and their own colleagues.

Several projects and /or areas where it makes solid business sense for IT and financial professionals to partner up include the following:

• Developing an enhanced forecast model that includes more robust testing parameters
• Automating processes such as accounts payable accruals and wire payments
• Implementation of protocols such as e-signatures and the ability to save journal entries electronically without ever printing them out

All of these initiatives enhance business operations, and are win-wins for all involved.