Understand your IT counterpart | AccountingWEB

Understand your IT counterpart

With such high stakes involved, the organisational boundaries between finance and IT have always been subject to executive friction, often arising from not just technical and business misunderstandings, but the clash of cultures that can occur between the different functions.

Recently, our sister site Finance Week explored the Finance-IT relationship with Gordon Lovell-Read, the chief of specialist training organisation CIO Development. From his work with senior technology executives, Lovell-Read has identified four different types of CIO. Understanding their characteristics and knowing how best to approach them can make a real difference to building a successful relationship.

“Identifying which category an IT executive falls into has already proven to be of great use to them in building their strengths and addressing areas for improvement. Making the same level of understanding available to finance directors will unlock new insights into the dialogue with, and deliverables from the IT executive,” said Lovell-Read.

What follows is a short summary of his findings. The links in the article can take you through to fuller descriptions originally published in Finance Week’s articles.

CIO Development’s research categorised senior technology managers into the following four categories, based on their personality types, behaviours and work experiences, the most obvious difference is that the first two types are company outsiders and the other two are company insiders.

  • The Paratrooper CIO An experienced technology executive, who has built up skills mostly in other organisations. They come to the role with a mandate for change and a track record that shows they can deliver. You can anticipate a clinical decision-maker who will follow through in spite of potential personal risks.
  • The Consultant CIO An experienced general business executive, who’s experience has come mostly in other organisations. “The consultant will probably be the person who knows best what to do and gets on with delivering it in the least disruptive way consistent with the required outcome,” said Lovell-Read.
  • The Professional CIO The Professional CIO is an experienced technology executive who has a good track record within your organisation. They know their team, the key players across the business and should have an intuitive sense of what is likely to work or not. They should provide you with a safe pair of hands, but may have limited knowledge of how other companies achieve success or be closely tied to existing policies and practices and be less willing to take risks.
  • The Executive CIO will be someone who has spent most of their executive career within your company, but with minimal experience in the technology function. They will know the company’s history of IT success and failure and may have strong views on the company’s strategy and the role for technology. The Executive may have been a vociferous critic of previous IT regimes and will have strong views on how the function should be fixed.


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3569787's picture

The board may need to look at itself!

3569787 | | Permalink

Any company with an "Executive CIO" or a "Paratrooper CIO" had better look at themselves and why they made such a poor decision in the first place.


As pointed out in the article an "Executive CIO" has no technical knowledge and is "...over-reliant on advice from a resentful IT team...". Having been an IT worker looking up I can assure you that IT experts cannot tolerate such "non-leaders". Leading them a merry dance, doing what they the workers want and not what the boss wants. If the boss objects they will just tie their objections up in techno-speak to make it all sound very plausiable and the department as a whole goes sides ways or backwards for an extended period.

As for the  "Paratrooper CIO" the ego of this type of person does not endure him to his subordinates. Again the IT expert will "drag their feet" and intentionally miss deadlines in order to reflect badly on the CIO. 

All sounds very childish.

But I am afraid that unless the CIO can carry his troops with him all is lost. IT staff have ego's as well. Some highly inflated due to the technical expertise indivduals obtain. Becoming "gurus" within the company. If those skills are in demand outside the company - retaining such people can be a difficult task. They tolerate the present company - "as long as it suits them". Annoy them and they are gone no matter what the companies reliance or approaching deadlines.   

Sales and marketing people think that they are the company.

Production people think they make the company what it is.

Accountants think they run the company.

All the time IT workers really know that they run and make the company what it is and will occasianally flex their muscles to show it! Ever had a systems failure caused by an "accident" in IT. Be warned - don't upset these people. 



One such story

Anonymous | | Permalink

One of the big 4 had a non-IT partner placed in overall charge of the firms IT.

The subject of backups & security arose with the need to safely retain the backup data. Accordingly this 'expert' issued an edict about data safes.

He was rather stumped when asked in an open meeting whether the departments should buy a DOS or Windows data safe

Thereafter most staff regarded him in this light