In today’s complex business ecosystem, the relationship between the CIO and the CFO has to be closely aligned, which goes beyond just an agreement on the budget. The CIO and the CFO have to be as one, working together as two strong pillars that ensure the organisation meets every demand the regulators, shareholders, customers, partners and employees place on it. The days of tension between the CIO and CFO are long gone.
Whether your day to day responsibility is financial or technological, there is a binding commonality between you both: as CIO and CFO, you both share the responsibility for risk and compliance in the organisation. That shared responsibility extends to a complete understanding of each other’s roles and challenges. As CIO, you should be well versed on the financial processes and demands, and a transformational CFO is well briefed and often passionate about technology.
With technology underpinning every aspect of an organisation and becoming increasingly important, the responsibilities of the CIO have evolved from just a set of assets and services that are a cost centre to the organisation. Technology is now a foundation of the business, no matter its vertical market. If we accept that technology underpins our organisations, it is important to realise there is an increased risk. With this risk comes greater demand for compliance. The last decade has seen a wealth of regulations, all of which bring a technology compliance element to your organisation.
It is, therefore, vital for the CIO to be able to articulate risk in financial terms, whether it be data or cyber security threats to the CFO. This is critical because any problems that cause risk have a technical and operational impact and solution. For example, investing in new infrastructure or balancing the organisation’s concerns about intellectual property protection when using the public cloud, are technology questions. But, they are clearly business questions too. If the organisation opts to delay infrastructure investment, it could impact business continuity. That in turn impacts the customer experience.
These may sound like decisions that are the sole domain of the CIO, but that is not the case. If technology is truly at the heart of the organisation, then the responsibility for these decisions has to be shared with your peers in the C-suite.
The CIO has to understand, extremely well, the financial system of the organisation, and be able to calculate the risks in a way that the CFO finds accurate and helpful. Together, you need to be able to take these assessments to the audit, or risk, committee and on to the board. This entire discussion is not technical; it is a financial discussion. In fact, you should not have a C in your job title until you realise that part of your job entails being able to hold your own when having financial discussions.
There are a lot of people who have grown up through the technology ranks and eventually get a CIO title. And, in my experience, there are many who are CIO in name only; the title is somewhat honorific.
Am I being disloyal to my CIO peers? No. You can tell the difference between CIOs that are fluent in financial terms and ideas and those that aren’t.
IT leaders are new to the C-suite. Many CIOs have come up from an operational background, which has required and benefited from our detail orientation. Important as detail is at the C-suite, so too is a collaborative approach and this is where CIOs need to develop their skill set. Because, in truth, the C-suite is a lifeboat with just one packet of biscuits to survive on. The team that shares the biscuits of responsibility, is the one that will sail into a safe harbour. Any group of executives at the C-level are all working hard to figure out how to direct the company and they all share the authority.
Lastly, a good relationship with the CFO – and everyone else at the C-level – in no way detracts from the relationship a CIO must have with the CEO. Buy-in and participation from the CEO is vital. Everyone in the C-level needs the CEO’s support and understanding. That CEO air cover is most effective when it is shared between the CFO and CIO.
Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their experiences and use-cases? Attend the Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London and Amsterdam to learn more.