The Gap between Finance and IT

What is your organisation missing? Let’s see:

  • Have a hot IT team, capable of establishing reliable, secure, performing systems within budget? Check.
  • Have a keen finance team, dedicated, involved, trusted? Check.

So where’s the gap?

It’s certainly there. I know it is because I often can’t deliver the information that managers want; I can’t answer the root cause questions to the numbers that I present. This gap is a cause of systems falling short of expectation, of organisations not being able to get out of their systems what they are looking for.

The bases are not covered

I believe the gap arises where

  1. accountants take responsibility for the content and meaning of data but not how to store and retrieve it, and
  2. IT people take responsibility for storage and retrieval of data but no accountability for what the numbers mean or how they are presented*, but
  3. nobody understands both.

* – I’m grateful to Stephan-Robert Langer for giving me this characterisation of how accountants and IT people relate to data.

The same gap is identified by David Carter in his call to accountants to break up the BI party.

Filling the Gap

I think I’ve long recognised this gap, because I invariably took on the role of filling it in all of the companies I worked for. So who is in the best place to fill it, an IT person willing to learn financial concepts and take on responsibility for the meaning of data, or an accountant not afraid to grapple with SQL, data normalisation and storage technologies?

It sounds a tough call on both counts, doesn’t it? However, the pragmatic answer is clear. At the end of the day, the accountant is accountable for the numbers, and if that means straddling the gap into IT skills to ensure they can be delivered and explained then that needs to be done. No one else is going to do it.

3 Responses to “The Gap between Finance and IT”

  • Thanks for the link to David Carter’s story.

    I agree accountants should do anything necessary to fill this gap and have actually spent quite a few years doing it myself. It does raise a few issues, though – let’s call them “positioning” issues:

    * Old-school finance people might see you too much like an IT resource

    * IT will most definitely see you as competition;-)

    * The added value is obvious once you’re part of an organization and start to deliver results, but it’s difficult to “sell” that particular skill set without sounding too much like “an IT guy”

    * You run the risk of ending up maintaining systems instead of using them to answer the very questions you built them to find answers to in the first place

    Oh well. Back to my EOM ETL jobs, SQL-based cost allocation processes and OLAP cubes…

  • Isn’t this what systems accountants do? You and I and Stephane-Robert obviously work as S/A’s, straddling the “accounting-IT divide”.

    In my experience plenty of accountants acquire adequate relevant system skills, but fewer IT people acquire adequate relevant accounting skills.

    And I’m not saying that accountants some SQL knowledge = IT professional.

  • “And I’m not saying that accountants some SQL knowledge = IT professional” omitted the word Plus after “accountants”, – I typed a plus sign…:(

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