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CFO survey: 57 percent see adequate returns on IT

Organizations would do well to invest in open source and software as a service to drive down IT costs and improve innovation, says CNET Blog Network contributor Matt Asay.

Maybe IT doesn't matter, after all. At least, not as much as it should.

A recently released survey of chief financial officers and their views on technology spending found that roughly 57 percent say they are getting an acceptable return on investment (ROI) from their tech spending. Lest you think that the CFOs are too distant from the chief information officer to have a true grasp on ROI, keep in mind that the survey found that 41 percent of organizations have CIOs reporting to CFOs. The Computer Sciences Corporation conducted the annual survey of 629 CFOs in association with the Financial Executives Research Foundation.

Other data from the "Technology Issues for Financial Executives" study was equally interesting:

  • Among those surveyed, IT spending has increased over the last three years, and is expected to grow in 2008, as well.
  • Greater than 50 percent suggest medium to high ROI on technology investments but only 11 percent reported a "high" ROI.
  • Despite the somewhat tepid results, 34 percent suggest that the promise of expected IT benefits will continue to drive IT spending.
  • Oddly, given the perceived importance of technology to these CFOs, only 41 percent have done post-completion audits to gauge the relative success or failure of these projects.

These organizations clearly spend far too much on their IT and would do well to invest in open source and software as a service to drive down costs and improve innovation. Given the reporting structure within many organizations, perhaps open source should focus a bit less on the techies within an organization and more on the bean counters? CFOs might be the best-placed people within an organization to gauge the success of open source.

Of open source, Gartner recently noted:

...[E]nd-user organizations will use stable open-source projects as a competitive differentiator against companies that refuse to acknowledge that open source is now enterprise-ready. By 2012, 80 percent or more of all commercial software will include elements of open-source technology.

If you're a CFO who somehow "missed the memo," it's time to wake up and smell the open source. It's perhaps the single best way to ensure strong ROI on technology spending: Spend less, get more. That's the promise of open source.