By Jim Wong, CPA | November 18, 2015

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” — James Humes

It can be intimidating to ask a manager or leader for approval on a purchase or project, even if you are in a management role yourself. However, it can be especially nerve-wracking when that manager or leader is in a different function.

This type of dynamic is common for IT leaders who often have to ask their finance counterparts to sign off on various finance-related decisions such as purchasing improved hardware, software upgrades or other new technologies. That’s why, it’s imperative to know how to effectively communicate details to a finance leader – which is not always an easy task.

As the finance function continues to grow closer to the strategic and operations sides of a business, it becomes more and more important for IT and Finance leaders to be on the same page.

Rather than get caught up in a tough conversation, IT leaders and finance leaders need to develop a healthy rapport with clear communication that will not only benefit the organization, but help build a strong relationship between the two teams.

I often see companies where the IT and Finance functions are either really tight and have a united front, or are disjointed and lack communication. Therefore, when I came across a recent article, I knew it was an important topic to discuss. Here are some of the points from the article along with a few of my own in the 4 Communication Tips to Connect IT and Finance Leaders below:

1. Present more than one option.
Instead of giving a finance leader one option to make a decision on, present two to three options for what you’d like implemented. Learn if your finance leader tends to select the lowest cost or somewhere in the middle and give he or she options that are higher and/or lower than your ideal option. Then, explain why your choice is the most viable selection. This will help guide the finance leader in the direction you’d like him or her to go. It’s no secret that finance leaders tend to look at numbers and costs first. So, doing your due diligence to give them a broad sense of the costs associated with your request will help satisfy their questions and concerns, and likely make them approve your request.

2. Be prepared to justify the cost.
This is arguably the most important step when it comes to communicating to a finance leader. You must be able to identify the cost-benefit ratio for your request. Finance leaders tend to be more concerned with the investment details than the technical details and often want you to justify each dollar. The finance leaders want to be fully aware of what the money is going towards and how it can benefit the business as a whole before signing off. Therefore, if you offer clear and concise information, it’ll be easier for them to agree to your requests.

3. Refrain from using technical jargon. 
This should be a given in any profession, but stands to be said again: Using terms that are only used by your team members and no one else will not help build your case to the finance leadership. You need to speak in plain language for other functions – in this case the finance leadership team – to understand. That usually includes numbers, percentages and return on investment. If the topic you’re discussing is too technical whereas you cannot avoid such jargon, rehearse your presentation with someone who is less technically savvy and see if the information makes sense to them. Or, create a short handout with technical terms and their definitions so that the finance leaders have something to reference.

4. Let your finance leader decide. 
This is directly related to the first tip: When you present options to your finance leadership, show the choices in a way that leads them towards the decision you’d like them to make, but make it seem as though they came to that decision on their own. The CIO article explains, “Giving them options that are skewed toward the best solution makes things easier for the CFO because they feel they’ve been part of the process and they’ve chosen the best option—and you get the solution that you want.” When you have the deck stacked in your favor, and both teams are on the same page, the outcome will likely lean in your favor.

Do you have other helpful tips for effective communication between IT and finance leaders? Comment below and let us know!

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