Successful CIOs Know What The CFO Really Wants

by drjim on November 9, 2011

The CIO Controls All The Money, It's Good To Have Him On Your Side

The CIO Controls All The Money, It’s Good To Have Him On Your Side

In the classic Hollywood movie “All The President’s Men”, the heroes who are trying to unravel the web of corruption are told that they will be able to put the pieces together if they “… follow the money…”. It turns out that even though today’s CIOs are not trying to solve a crime, if they want their career to take off, they would do well to follow this same advice.

What CFOs Really Want

So if you are going to follow the money, then you are going to have to get on the good side of the company’s CFO. To do this you first need to understand what the CFO wants out of life. What you might find amusing is that CFOs face a lot of the same problems that CIOs face: they get niched, they get relegated to just dealing with one set of issues (money), and they yearn for a role in the bigger picture: setting the company’s strategy.

Now, CIOs want the same thing, but it turns out that if we take the time to help the CFO get what they want, then this can further our career also. However, first we need to really nail down what the CFO is looking for.

The first thing is that they want to become more deeply involved in setting the overall direction of the company. They feel that they understand the numbers will enough that they can contribute to this process.

What they really want to do here is to help the company come up with the appropriate types of measures that will allow it to correctly set its priorities – why do you want to spend money doing that and is there something better that we could do with that money?

Next, CFOs want to have a greater say over what the company spends its money on. Just like CIOs who think that they know better than the rest of the company what the company should be doing, it kills the CFO to see the company spend money on things that they feel aren’t going to generate a return.

What CIOs Can Do To Help CFOs Get What They Want

If you need any additional motivation to take the time to find ways to help your company’s CFO out, then how about this: more often than not your company’s next CEO comes from the CFO office. That’s the kind of friend you want to have on your side!

When it comes to helping your CFO become more integrated in the company’s strategic planning process, the CIO can easily play a bigger role. Ultimately making good strategy decisions is all about having the right data in front of you so that you can make good decisions. The IT sector has been built on data and within the company the CIO is the source of all data in the company. Taking the time to provide the CFO with the data that is needed is a good way to help the CFO position himself as a part of the company’s strategy team.

An important point that often gets overlooked is that before a CFO can start to spend more time on strategy, they need to make sure that the basic blocking and tackling financial activities are taken care of. The CIO can step in here and identify where additional automation can be used to reduce the time and effort that those actions take.

The final point, keeping track of how the company is spending its cash and the results that it is getting from those expenditures, is once again is a key area where the IT department can lend a hand. The challenge here is that that data that will be needed is spread across different parts of the company. This is a great opportunity to show off the importance of information technology – it’s going to take the efforts of the entire IT department to gather and process the needed financial data.

What All Of This Means For You

In the past few years there has been a lot of talk about IT / business alignment. Although this is still a goal that we should all be shooting for, it turns out that in the short term the CIO should make an IT department goal to find ways to better meet the needs of the company’s CFO.

CFOs are desperately looking for ways to play a more strategic role within the company. The importance of information technology in helping them achieve this can’t be overstated. The CIO is the person who can make this happen. By providing the financial data that the CFO needs in order to participate in creating strategy as well as helping to ensure that day-to-day financial activities are taken care of the CIO can be a great asset to the CFO.

In many firms the CFO is one of the prime candidates to move into the CEO position when it opens up. CIOs who have not allowed themselves to be confined by the definition of information technology and who have instead reached out to provide extra help to the CFO will be well situated when the CFO is promoted. It turns out that when you “…follow the money…” CIOs can end up in a very good place…

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What do you think is the best way for a CIO to find out exactly what data the company’s CFO is looking for?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Congratulations CIO – you’ve been asked to make a presentation to your company’s board of directors. Oh, oh. What are you going to have to do in order to make your career move forward due to this opportunity and not screw it up?

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