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9 ways to sell your IT outsourcing plan to the CFO

Stephanie Overby | Dec. 5, 2012
CFOs are becoming increasingly involved in corporate IT outsourcing decisions. However, the CIO team doesn't always speak the same language as the CFO team. Here are nine steps you can take to more successfully bring your outsourcing case to finance.

2. Think Like a CFO "The CIO needs to understand CFO's objectives," says Brad Peterson, partner in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown. Finance leaders want cost savings, sure. But they're also interested in cost deferral, trading fixed cost for variable costs, and asset ownership.

"Some favor a light asset ownership model so they can improve their return on assets," Peterson says. It's also important to consider how reported financial results differ from the outcomes IT may experience on the ground. "The results you produce may not be visible in reported financial statements, which is what the CFO is looking for," Peterson says.

"The make vs. buy assessment [should] not only include the total cost of ownership analysis, but should also take into account other considerations that are critical to the CFO," says Pace Harmon's Martin. "These include implications to current personnel, impact on business risk, and operational performance -- all of which have financial implications."

Don't know where to begin? Insource some financial know-how into the IT organization. "IT increasingly adding to their staff finance people either borrowed from procurement or brought into IT," says Masur.

3. Consider the What-Ifs "CFOs are focused on managing risk-- whether it's legal, operational or market-based. But quite often we see CIOs assuming, when they do their outsourcing analyses and business cases, that there's a base case that just continues for years," says Peterson.

Meanwhile, the finance chief is wondering what happens if the business doubles in size or we sell off a business unit or there are some new regulatory changes.

4. Quantify Nonfinancial Value IT wants more than cost cutting from IT outsourcing, but selling soft benefits to finance requires quantification. "If the CIO wants the CFO to consider things other than cost, they need to articulate and quantify the value to be received," says Masur. "It's not enough to say we're going to upgrade our capabilities or we're going to add features and functionality. You need to provide the cost-benefit analysis."

5. Look Outside of IT The business case for outsourcing may be great for IT cost-cutting, but will it break the CFO's budget elsewhere? Outsourcing--especially offshore--is great at cutting the CIO's expense line, while increasing it for other areas of the organization, such as audit, travel, security, communications," says Adam J. Strichman, founder of outsourcing consultancy Sanda Partners. "CIOs would be wise to effectively communicate how their cost-cutting measures may increase cost to other groups."

6. Apply Portfolio Management Principles The CFO thinks about everything in terms of the financial portfolio. To finance, IT outsourcing is just another investment in the mix. "CFOs want IT to use portfolio management thinking," says Peterson. "They want you to periodically reevaluate [outsourcing] and rebalance it and consider diversification.


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