There's also the consideration that when my senior vice president of finance pulls together his reports for the SEC, he's not just pulling numbers from the general ledger. Instead, he needs information that comes out of other databases [that could be in the cloud] such as a breakdown of revenue, orders by products, and sales to OEMs vs. end users.
How did you address this internally? Some companies either turn a blind eye to departments and users subscribing to cloud-based services or they ban them outright.
We took a different approach. Instead of being a roadblock, we decided to embrace every single business user's request for SaaS. This enabled us to shadow the implementation from the start and figure out where, if any, we'd need to have integration points immediately or down the road. Today, we have almost 20 on-demand applications, including a sales force database, HR programs, expense reporting, compensation management, time management and IT tools. This aggressive stance has helped IT get ahead of the on-demand services curve. Had they not, and users wanted dashboards or data integration, the vendors wouldn't have been able to help them and they would have had to come to IT anyway. This makes for a much better relationship between IT and business users.
What do you think is the most important part of the finance and IT relationship?
Communication. Our vice president of finance and CIO regularly have lunch together. They understand that each has to make trade-offs for the good of the business. We also have a quarterly governance process where all executives and key business stakeholders debate potential projects and do a post-mortem on recently completed projects. We look at how we all performed in terms of cost, timing, functionality and other criteria.
Have you ever overruled IT on a technology decision?
There was one time. Because there was no integration between our internal spreadsheet and forecasting systems where we try to project commissions, variable costs and payments, and other data, we came scarily close to missing a forecast. I told IT and my own finance team that we couldn't take that kind of risk and we needed an on-demand service that would handle this task. They argued it wasn't cost-justified. I called it "risk mitigation."
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