At Dole Food Co., finance and IT staffs have worked together for years to determine what type of technology various departments need and whether the benefits justify the costs. “It’s really a kind of a teamwork approach to justifying the project, where information technology and finance work together to come up with the basis for the project and the financial costs and returns,” says CFO Kenneth Kay. But in recent months, a second step has been added to the budgeting process: Finance and IT now go back to see if their original estimates were correct. “In most cases, they’re pretty close,” says Kay. And it’s a good thing, too. Needless to say, no company is spending on every new technological bell or whistle anymore, and CFOs more than ever need to be able to demonstrate that any capital spending has a respectable return on investment. “In all cases the CFO needs to ensure that ROIs can be proved and needs to understand the difference between nice-to-have and something that’s mission-critical,” says John Von Decker, the program director for application-delivery strategies at research and consulting firm Meta Group Inc. Meta is one of the few tech think tanks predicting a decline in U.S. IT spending this year.