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Finance Eye for the IT Guy?

The instantaneous changes of reality TV are is much harder to pull off in the corporate sphere.
Scott Leibs, CFO IT
September 15, 2003

Our bodies, our wardrobes, and our homes are (TV leads us to believe) badly in need of expert assistance. We are walking disaster areas—clueless in the kitchen, oblivious to the most basic precepts of color and design, apparently unable to even shave correctly. And those are areas we thought we had under control. Move into something truly complicated, like the intersection of finance and technology, and even the cleverest TV producer would be hard-pressed to concoct a reality program anyone would watch ("Who Wants to Marry IT and Finance?").

The appeal of such shows hinges largely on the near-instantaneousness of their transformations; "before" and "after" are separated by only a few minutes, and even that feels padded. The Cinderella Effect is much harder to pull off in the corporate sphere. While the vision of a crack team of consultants leaping from an SUV is appealing, the reality is that substantive change takes time. Often a lot of time.

That's true even at MTV, the network that can lay claim to inventing the reality-TV genre. It hasn't taken much time for MTV to become a sizable part of the Viacom media empire, but its rapid growth threatens to overwhelm its finance department. So its former and current CFOs, along with a cadre of senior finance and IT executives, have launched Project FORE, an ambitious effort to transform the finance department, in part through a measured application of technology. Although it is in its infancy, the project already offers valuable lessons in how companies should develop a plan and devote the necessary resources to every phase.

Elsewhere in this issue, our second annual survey on key trends in IT reveals whether CFOs are working more closely with the technology side of the house, what they really think about ROI, and whether they believe IT is still a source of strategic advantage. Without giving too much away, we can safely say that the results suggest many transformations to come.