Are CIOs Doomed to Vanish into the Cloud? Many CFOs Think So

In one survey of UK finance directors, 17% say the CIO position could disappear from the business landscape within five years' time.

By Roy Harris

It sounds shocking, perhaps -- until you think about the rapid pace at which corporate finance is becoming involved with technology. But 17% of corporate financial decision-makers in a recent UK poll believe the position of chief information officer will disappear from the business landscape in the next five years.

Of the 203 CFOs and finance directors who participated in the January survey, part of a report titled "The Changing Role of the CFO," just released by Getronics UK, another 43% say that the CIO’s role eventually will be subsumed within finance. Further, 31% believe those in a CIO role will be coming from a non-technical background in the future. Getronics is a consultancy that is part of KPN, the Dutch telecommunications provider.

Generally, the reason for such dynamic predictions seems to involve the changing way businesses purchase and consume IT -- especially because of the increasing importance of utility-based and cloud computing, in which IT services are rented out on a pay-per-use model, rather than purchased and installed outright.

What CIOs Don't Know About Finance

In a  wide-ranging series of other results -– all from financial decision-makers with UK companies having at least 1,000 employees -– respondents also show, among other things, a low opinion of how much CIOs know about finance. For example, 38% say CIOs have less than a good level of financial understanding. And, remarkably, 40% say that their own CIOs need a greater understanding of IT itself.

“Compounding this lack of understanding of both roles,” Getronics said its press release about the study, “more than half (56%) of the CFOs and financial directors surveyed believe that a lack of integration between finance and IT limits the impact on cost savings achievable from IT projects within their business.”

The findings suggest strongly that more integration is needed between the two departments –- and 48% of those polled said such closer integration is already taking place at their companies. (On the other hand, a decrease in such integration moves was cited at 35% of the businesses.)

Worries about IT Maintenance

Other poll questions concerned what IT spending worries were the greatest for finance decision-makers. Maintaining IT infrastructure is a key concern among 64% of respondents, while 48% say they are concerned by the level of expenditure paid to consultancies, and 47% list license payments for software.

Respondents indicate that they believe their own tech understanding is increasing, with only 2% saying they are “not aware of the term cloud computing.” Most were able to provide a meaningful description of its use.

As the CIO role continues to evolve, Getronics UK said, more consulting for businesses will be driven internally, as outsourced consulting decreases.

The study recounts how the role of the CIO already has evolved recently, with 77% of the CFOs and financial directors saying they already have assumed greater responsibility for IT decisions over the past two years. The poll’s results show that 38% of businesses rolling out a cloud computing project recently had that cloud project initiated directly by the finance department, rather than by IT. Another 39% said that finance had been directly involved in cloud projects, but only after the IT department initiated it.