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Achieving a shared goal

Many decades ago, just about the only requirement for a company’s set of
accounts was that they be true and fair. Those were halcyon days: honest boards
could concentrate on providing information that reflected the performance and
the state of affairs of the business, untroubled by the burdens of detailed
regulation. Dishonest boards could manipulate data and transactions, similarly
untroubled by the burdens of detailed regulation – and unhindered by the
constraints of an unerasable audit trail.

Since then, financial reporting regulation has gone through a succession of
Big Bangs. Technology has exploded on the scene in ways unimaginable back in the
days of paper ledgers. And most importantly, the information demands of boards
and all other senior executives are as complex as the new business models they
manage.

And yet, despite the huge passage of time since the days when the only
impediment to accessing information was that the filing cabinet was locked,
finance and systems still often struggle to connect with each other. It has
become a cliché that the bean-counters don’t appreciate what the techies bring
to the table, while the geeks regard the pen-pushers as Luddite cost-control
nerds. The goal of joined-up thinking between finance and IT as a means of
ensuring better decision-making remains, for many, still out of reach, if not
completely elusive.

In recent years, Financial Director has confronted this problem head
on. Various research projects we have undertaken confirmed that there is,
indeed, an understanding gap between finance and IT. Worse, there is often an
“appreciation gap” whereby each side fails to value the contribution that the
other can make.

In 2002 Financial Director reported that barely one company in 10
claimed that mutual understanding, support and communication between finance and
IT was “excellent”. A year later, it was apparent that IT did not rate finance’s
contribution towards setting IT strategy anywhere near as highly as finance
rated its own contribution. And in a joint research project with our sister
title, Computing, in 2007, we found that IT recognised there had to be
more understanding by finance of IT’s objectives as well as an improvement in
IT’s understanding of the business’s objectives. Suffice to say that FDs’ views
weren’t symmetrical to those of IT.

Taking the discussion further, Financial Director is again
partnering Computing to produce this supplement. In it, you will find
some of the most up-to-date thinking from experts and the real-world experiences
of firms at the sharp end of implementing solutions. This joint publication
brings together some of the keenest business journalism with a technology bent –
or is it technology journalism with a business bent? The lines between the two
seem to be blurring – but there is nothing out of focus about the goal:
achieving superior business decision-making, whatever the technology.

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