06 December 2021
CIO + CFO: the ultimate digital transformation partnership
By the time you reach the C-suite level, the roles are so specialised they may appear to have almost no overlap. It's certainly the case with CIOs and CFOs; however, that's changing.
As companies embark on their digital transformation journeys, they're likely to need both. To prevent a bottleneck, the CIO must balance their instincts to move the organisation forward with the CFO's priorities of protecting its financial health.
Could approaching digitisation as a shared responsibility build a bridge across the digital divide?
CIO vs CFO
The best leaders are usually the most devoted. The roles at the top of the org chart have clear objectives, and the people behind them put in considerable effort to meet their individual responsibilities.
Here's how that breaks down on the technical and fiscal side:
- From a CFO's standpoint: Maintaining financial control takes precedence above all else. If the organisation isn't fiscally efficient, no one else can do their job. In times of economic uncertainty – or a global pandemic – they have to manage a variety of complicating factors that can jeopardise the organisation.
- In the CIO's perspective: IT operations are the most mission-critical aspects of any modern company. Digital innovation makes it possible to keep up with changing customer demands and technological advancements that keep the company competitive.
Where their priorities differ
Companies that survived the COVID-19 crisis primarily did so by leaning into digital transformation. CFOs had a front row seat for these essential shifts.
But getting financial buy-in on costly, sweeping changes and tech tools wasn't always so easy.
Until recently, many IT purchases were simply seen as expenditures. It's still taking time for CFOs to evolve that mindset and view new technologies as investments. That's especially difficult if they can't get a full grasp on the tech's innovation potential.
On the CIO side, the most important concern is finding the right solution. Once they have, they want to shift their focus to implementing it and growing the business, not waiting for the check to clear.
Creating common ground
No doubt, both sides of the C-suite have their hearts in the right places. So how can these two come together and create meaningful change instead of stalling progress?
It starts the same way any good relationship does: with good communication. As Chief Information Officer, Vishal Gupta, tells CIO, "To be successful, the CIOs...and their teams must regularly meet to build trust and a deeper understanding of what the other side is looking to achieve. Having open, transparent communication or common town halls will help both the organisations to develop more empathy and collaboration with each other."
From there, organisations have the groundwork in place to foster a strong, collaborative relationship between their CIOs and CFOs by:
- Communicating IT value: CIOs must articulate why an IT purchase or organsational change is needed now, and how it will impact ROI long term. CFOs need to understand the function of the technology as much as its potential impact to feel confident giving it the green light.
- Seeing where their metrics merge: The entire C-suite prioritises financial performance. Create common KPIs that matter to each department so they can better assess IT investments.
- Using technology to streamline finance operations: CIOs that create better financial insights through digitisation can give CFOs a proof of concept and establish a collaborative working dynamic.
- Making a collective budgeting process: The more agile, the better.
- Creating business volatility strategies: Sometimes, it takes coming together over a common enemy, like a global pandemic, to take the next step.
To realise true digital transformation, CFOs and CIOs need to trust that the other understands their individual priorities – and that the collective interests of the organisation are represented. Once this happens, it creates a slingshot effect that drives innovation forward.