A do-nothing CFO gets the upgrade he deserves

A CFO more interested in golf than in work gets the biggest, baddest machine IT can provide -- but don't look under the hood

Money smarts do not necessarily equal tech smarts, which can be a disaster for many companies. I worked at a place where this imbalance at times brought us close to the edge of solvency, but in one instance, it became our advantage -- unless you were our tech-challenged CFO.

When I first started in IT in the late 1990s, it seemed that every month or so a new processor came out. There were always TV and magazine ads touting the increased speed and the need for it in computing capacity. Of course, everyone from the top down paid attention.

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During this time, I worked at a company where the CEO and CFO did not manage the money well. For instance, the company didn't have a budgeting process for the departments. If we needed something, we'd present our case to the CEO, and he would on the spot approve or deny the request, seemingly at random and without consulting any budget numbers.

Colleagues, classmates -- and frenemies

Our CFO was a college friend of the CEO's. The CEO was ultimately in charge of expenditures in the company, and this must have left the CFO in an awkward position, as he always seemed to be trying to look good to the CEO. One accolade that stands out in my memory was when the CEO loudly praised the CFO for his email on trimming the "wasting" of paper clips.

The CFO saw the tech department as a way to have some say in the company, and thus scrutinized IT spending. Each week he would quiz us on the past week's work so that he could update the CEO during their Thursday afternoon golf game. If he couldn't find time to quiz us, he would make up something about the Web traffic, internal projects, or virus control to report on. We were told these facts by the other two members of the golfing foursome who found it very amusing since the CEO and CFO were quite technically challenged and had no desire to learn or advance other than using jargon to sound knowledgeable.

My job was to evaluate the company's hardware and keep the users supplied with enough power to maintain their productivity without breaking the bank. We were on a very strict budget, so we acquired new machines for power users when we could, upgraded the RAM on their old machines, and dispensed them as needed. The users overall understood the limitations and were quite gracious about it.

Power play

One day, the CFO came to my boss and demanded a new computer with upgraded software. He already had one of the best computers in the office, and having control of the network and printers, I knew his title far superseded his workload and he didn't even use what he had. For example, he had access to the main accounting package, but the logs showed he never logged in to it.

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