IT needs to become a main-board business function to help break down the traditional mistrust between finance directors and IT directors, delegates were told at the City IT financial services technology forum last week.
With IT often the largest corporate expense after staff costs, it was described as an "obvious target" for finance directors looking to make savings, with any shortcomings of the IT function being particularly vulnerable to criticism by an under-pressure finance head.
According to the session's leaders - Martin Craddock, ex-finance director of Rank Hovis, and Glenn Martin, former managing director and chief technology officer at financial services firm Cazenove - there are potential divisions between finance and IT functions on many fronts.
Because the relationship between IT and other cost centres is often ill-defined, they said, cost allocation disputes involving IT were a common bugbear for finance directors, while the relatively high failure rate of IT projects also led to antipathy.
Another perception that IT directors must overcome, said Martin, was the belief that since outsourcing brings substantial savings, the in-house IT function must be very poor. Martin said, "As IT is usually involved with change, it often becomes a scapegoat when difficulties arise."
Craddock said the long-term challenge was to find a common objective that IT heads and finance directors can share.
He said businesses need to embrace change and chief operating officers need to take ownership of projects involving IT at the boardroom level, and CIOs should also sit on the board.