What CFOs need to hear about cloud computing and consumer IT

Cloud computing and the consumerization of IT change how you buy and budget for technology. Here’s how to talk about it with the CFO

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The popularity of collaboration tools for consumers also affects IT decision making. CIOs say it's important for CFOs to understand the need to invest in corporate collaboration applications, even if it's hard to understand the ROI. Consumers who are used to Facebook chat and sharing videos on YouTube expect to have the same capabilities at work. If the company doesn't provide them, they will use consumer networks if they think it will help them do their jobs more efficiently.

While using consumer applications may sometimes be appropriate, such as when communicating directly with consumers about your company's products or services, CIOs may need to educate their CFOs about the trade-offs. Companies often worry about employees communicating about business over Facebook simply because it's so easy. Recently, a Rhode Island hospital dismissed a doctor because she had discussed a patient, without naming him or her, on Facebook.

Notes Finnerty of Applied Materials, "If it's in social media, you have to get out front and say, 'We have an offering.' Then we can put controls in place for security and compliance." Even clear policies against using public social media will be violated if there isn't an alternative. "If you say 'no,' it will probably still happen," Finnerty says.

Ken Corriveau is CIO at ad-industry giant Omnicom (OMC), where workers are encouraged to use social media in order to keep up with the consumer world. For him, as for other CIOs, the new IT landscape of consumerization and cloud raises a host of questions, including financial ones. The company may start supporting employee smartphones, but that will require a monthly expense for reimbursements of phone bills. In the cloud, allocating storage expenses is a challenge.

"I'm having those conversations with the CFO," he says.

Bill Bulkeley, formerly of The Wall Street Journal, is a freelance writer based in Massachusetts.

This story, "What CFOs need to hear about cloud computing and consumer IT" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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