CFOs are increasingly becoming the top IT decision maker when it comes to tech spending, according to a survey by Gartner and the Financial Executives Research Foundation.

"More IT organisations report to the CFO than the CEO or any other executive," Gartner said. "Forty-two percent of IT organisations surveyed said that they reported to the CFO, and 53 per cent of CFOs said that they would like to move to this reporting arrangement."

Why is the CFO still boss of IT?

CFOs are the top IT investment decision maker more often than CIOs are, according to results from another question in the survey. In 18 per cent of companies, the CFO has primary responsibility for IT investment decisions, compared to 11 per cent of companies where the CIO has that role.

"I think it is a growing trend because of the economy," Gartner analyst John Van Decker said of CFOs taking more responsibility over IT spending. "In some cases, it’s unfortunate, and in some cases it’s very positive."

CFOs should get involved in financial decisions so that IT doesn’t become a runaway cost centre, but they also have to understand that investments are needed for IT to be a strategic resource, Van Decker said.

In 27 per cent of companies, financial responsibility is shared between the CIO and CFO, while in 32 per cent of companies there is a steering committee of IT and business executives making the decisions, the survey found.

Businesses reported several other scenarios, including steering committees consisting of IT and business operational mangers.

The survey polled 482 respondents, 74 per cent of whom were senior financial executives including CFOs and controllers.

While the results were somewhat different than other surveys that targeted mainly CIOs, Van Decker said Gartner’s meetings with clients indicate that CFOs are gaining more influence over IT because of the need for greater cost control in tough economic times.

When IT departments report directly to the CFO, the CFO is also likely to be among the top decision makers for IT investments. Across all respondents, 41 per cent of senior financial executives viewed themselves as decision makers, and another 34 per cent said they are among the key recommending executives.

"Thus, in 75 per cent of firms, the CFO plays a vital role in determining IT investment," Gartner says. "In addition, 20 per cent of CFOs have a minor role by providing some input, and in only 5 percent of cases does the CFO not participate in IT decision making."