CFOs Are Easy


To sell advice to, that is...I wouldn't know about the other thing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was standing in an old friend's flat in London, looking out onto the street, sipping a delicious drink before dinner. Lovely flat, beautiful street.

This friend sells research products to CFOs of the largest companies in the world. He used to sell similar products to CIOs. We got talking about what the differences are between these two groups and why selling to one might be easier or harder than selling to the other.

Why it's easier to sell research to CFOs than to IT Executives

* Urgency for a CFO is event driven and the events are clear for all to see -- they're news events about regulation, economic conditions, etc. Urgency for IT execs is event driven, but these are hidden to company outsiders and tied to specific IT initiatives.

* The CFO vendor landscape is less competitive than the IT vendor landscape (probably more so when it comes to research on what other companies are doing), not just economic and financial indicators.

* The gap from information to action/utility is smaller for CFOs than IT executives. It might be an issue of how much it takes to actually be able to do something with the information.

This gap between information and action is worth thinking about some more.

A few months ago, someone told me of a three-way distinction that Matt Olson, a research luminary at the Corporate Executive Board uses. It's a way to qualitatively assess the gap between a piece of advice and the action that it requires to turn it into practice and reap the intended improvement.

Matt Olson's Taxonomy of Advice

* Just add water -- Very little work needed to turn advice into practice and reap the intended improvement -- it's plug and play.

* Just add money -- Same as above, but needs to be greased with sufficient funds to get it rolling.

* Just add blood -- This is the tough one. We're talking labor, change management, project management, delivery schedules, and all the attendant headaches. Sweat. Tears.

My suspicion is that most IT research/advice falls into the "just add blood" category -- as a CIO, I can't just run with it. And that makes it worth very little.

Filed in: Industry News
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