FRAMINGHAM 3 MARCH 2011 -
Earl Fry thinks of himself as the next generation of financial executive. As CFO for data integration software and services firm Informatica, NASDAQ traded as INFA, he not only oversees IT, but is compelled to be an active participant in the organization's technology decisions.
Fry, based in Redwood City, Calif., tells CFOworld's Sandra Gittlen that all finance officers should take an interest in IT, even if it's not under their direct purview, and to do otherwise would be a critical mistake.
In addition to IT, what areas of the company do you lead?
I like to joke that I do everything nobody else wants to do. That includes finance, accounting, HR, facilities, legal, and investor relations. Of the more than 2,100 employees we have in about 18 countries, I have 420 reporting to me.
Has IT always fallen under the CFO title at Informatica?
From the day I started, 11 years ago, I've had responsibility for IT. In the past, IT was seen as a backward-looking necessary cost to keep systems running and there was not a lot of forethought in terms of strategically looking at systems, managing data, scaling infrastructure -- it was severely underinvested in and struggling to keep up with growth.
We've made sure to put the right people in place and that we make strategic investments where we think we can get good returns. We're not just playing catch up. The CFO can't be solely focused on finance -- there has to be a balanced perspective.
Is there a defining moment that you believe has forced finance teams to partner with IT?
Yes, and it's not the obvious one of Sarbanes-Oxley, although that is important to ensure that we have systems to capture, trap and provide lineage for data. Instead, I'd say this current shift to cloud computing where data is being moved outside of the organization's firewalls is a much bigger issue with much more long-term and profound implications for finance and IT.
From a business perspective, in many cases targeted, on-demand services are more cost-effective and provide more responsiveness to users. However, they pose problems for IT in trying to marry existing in-house infrastructure and the data within it to what's sitting in the cloud. IT may not care at first if a department signs up with a SaaS, but they will if that application becomes meaningful enough to the organization. Finance will also care because they need to ensure the security of the data and that there is a single version of the truth. You can't just say I'll rely on what's sitting on my in-house general ledger when everyone else is making decisions off a SaaS.
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