The Hero Journey of IT Finance

Most of fiction’s greatest protagonists have followed the same path to success – commonly referred to as the “hero’s journey” in film. 

Basically, an ordinary person is presented with an unimaginable challenge but finds a way to overcome all obstacles and emerge as a hero. The hero then returns from their journey with the knowledge and skills needed to make the ordinary world a better place. 

Maybe it’s a bit dramatic, but I see a lot of parallels between the hero’s journey and the newly released CFO of IT competency model. (You can learn more about the model by joining the TBM Council.) Let me explain.

The Core Skills

We see tremendous potential for IT finance leaders to move from the tactical to transformational, and truly inform and impact the business. And now we have a pattern for this journey. 

The TBM Council’s new competency model outlines the essential skills and maturity path for CFOs of IT, and those aspiring to it. Never before have the roles, responsibilities, qualifications, technical knowledge, and professional development track for a senior IT finance professional been defined with a focus on value creation.

At the core of the model is the essential function of technology controller, managing IT financial reporting and supporting processes such as budgeting, forecasting, asset management, and time tracking. Moving up the maturity model, a more progressive IT finance leader would also have investment manager roles, helping the business understand IT’s investment strategy.

The “voice of the business” function is where things get interesting. An IT finance professional operating at this stage is able to internalize broader business objectives and communicate them back to the entire IT organization. This is a more mature function that is essential to build upon to reach the “change agent” function, which is the mark of a mature IT finance professional. A master change agent is able to not only understand and communicate the business’ objectives, they are also able to materially shift IT’s investment portfolio to align more closely with these same goals.

The Challenge 

The TBM Council recently polled its members on their current-state IT financial management practice. Interestingly, 55 percent indicated their IT financial management practice was “somewhat mature.”

Although more than 90 percent of survey respondents agreed that the roles of “voice of the business” and “agent of change” were necessary, less than half actually have those roles within their organization today. This means that while the ability to align IT investments to business outcomes is essential for a fully mature profession, few IT finance professionals have the ability to take that position.  

This gap exists because many of the systems and tools IT finance professionals use today aren’t designed for the rapidly evolving needs for better transparency.

The Road Ahead

Because many IT finance professionals struggle to apply these principles to their work, the No. 1 question that came up throughout ITFM Week (where the model was introduced) was, “How do I do this?” 

While there are a number of IT financial management tools available in the market, none of them align to the competency model like Apptio’s suite of applications. As the technical advisor to the TBM Council, Apptio has created and advanced the tools necessary to execute the core competencies, and can deliver IT finance professional unparalleled transparency and automation needed for mature and even transformational IT financial management.

Eveline Oehrlich, Forrester’s leading expert in this area, put together a telling maturity-value model for IT finance. In it, she reveals that cost management is an early-maturity, but also low-value point involving spend benchmarks, cost models, budget variance by cost pools, basic tower costing, etc. 

What we today call IT financial management is the next phase, wherein consumption is managed and there’s better insight into application total cost of ownership, service costing, unit-cost benchmarks, chargebacks, and activity-based costing. Here, there’s more maturity and greater value.

But the ultimate mark of maturity is implementing the discipline now widely referred to as Technology Business Management, enabling demand and performance management with service-based budget and forecast, investment planning, risk (and also cost and performance) management, and service portfolio management. This is where organizations realize the most value. 

Answering the Call

With the stages of the journey identified and the tools to improve your world, it is now up to the IT finance professional to determine if they are able and willing to answer the call of the journey and commit to the adventure. Are you ready to become a hero?

Contact the TBM Council to learn more about the model, TBM tools that fit your business objectives, and how to get started.


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