ONEiO Unplugged: Why IT and Finance fall out, with Juha Berghäll
Long-term projects, research and development, return on investment, technical debt… the list of things IT and finance can come to odds about is never ending.
But as the prominence of digital grows and matures in your business, how does this ever-on-going discussion shift and change? In this edition of Service-Flow unplugged, we interview, CEO Juha Berghäll and find out what do these conflicts, compromises and concessions look like from a outsider’s point of view.
Q: What are the big challenges facing IT teams right now?
Juha: I love this question, because the answer both never changes… and is always changing! What never changes is communication between technical and non-technical people. However, in the past decade the number of ‘technical’ or tech-savvy people outside of IT has grown. Then alongside, the number of non-technical roles within IT has also gone up.
So, the fabric of technical skills and mindsets within a business has changed a lot. This brings about bit challenges for IT and the business as whole, in terms of where does the underlying drive for creating digital and tech innovations come from? The businesses who confidently answers that, are the ones who will win big over the next decade.
Q: How do successful IT leaders demonstrating the value they create internally?
Juha: This is simple to say and hard to do. It comes down to engaging with the business about their goals; listening and understanding. Then, playing back what you hear and bringing IT into the conversation.
It’s really important to come into discussions around ‘value creation’ from a place of ‘have we done what we said we were aiming to do’ rather than defending yourself on a matter you have only just come to learn about. So, come the occasion to provide evidence about what value IT has created, treat it as an opportunity to provide more clarity around the overall business goals everyone is working to, and seeing how others in the business would like to see IT enabling those goals.
Q: Where does the friction between IT and Finance come from?
Juha: Most other areas of the business don’t factor in what the IT challenges are going to be, or indeed how IT might be able to make their ideas happen faster than they might think. This is what often leads to IT being handed half-baked project plans and being told to deliver the outcomes with little or no consultation offered around how.
IT leaders need to be more pro-active in being at the heart of these discussions and offering unique and valuable perspectives at the objective setting stages, as to how IT can enable and make those objectives successful. Other roles such as Finance Directors and CFOs will warmly welcome IT to the table, if they know the outcome of doing so is greater collaboration and support for their ideas. But they will always avoid and resist it, if they perceive IT as barrier.
Q: Who’s to blame for that?
Juha: Wow. I don’t think anyone can be blamed. I don’t think that’s a healthy approach to making improvement happen. What you can (and should) do is establish accountabilities and offer opportunities to own the outcomes people and teams create.
Q: Okay, so what does ‘good look like’ for a CIO/CFO relationship?
Juha: It looks like frequent and frictionless interactions, which focus around the future of the business.
The best CIO and CFO relationships I tend to see are the ones where you can barely tell which-is-which. They get excited about the same ideas, critical about the same risks and question each other in equal proportion around the technical and financial possibilities ahead. I love walking into meetings with new clients and seeing this kind of communication going on in the board room. It makes me think ‘we can get a lot done here’.
Q: What’s your advice to the IT leaders reading this article and feeling the pain’s you’ve talked about above?
Juha: Get out of the trenches. If you want to be respected both inside and outside of you team, you need to be perceived as a member of the business who others listen to and come to for advice. You want marketing to come and ask about the latest software, you want HR to be asking you about how to create great documentation and living knowledge bases and finance to get your feedback on whether their decision look like they’ll have good ROI.
Work on your reputation as a good listener and questioner. Spending time outside your immediate team might feel counter intuitive. However, as and when word gets back to them that you are out there fighting their corner and making IT look great, they will respect you more than ever before.