Healing the CFO-CIO Rift

Not long ago, CFOs and CIOs were a breed apart. The former thought and talked in the language of dollars and cents; the latter thought and talked in bits and bytes. A conversation between the two was like a bad “speed dating” encounter.

This is a bit of an exaggeration, but clearly the relationship between these two senior executive leaders was uncomfortable at best. Flash forward to today, and something has changed. For one thing, more CIOs now report up to CFO, rather than to Chief Executive. This has put some pressure on the two roles to smooth out their differences.

But, something else also is afoot. The advent of mobile business apps integrated to back end ERP systems or cloud-based finance, CRM and HRMS systems is altering the IT paradigm and, by extension, transforming the role of the CIO. No longer do companies want CIOs to focus exclusively on managing IT–implementing, maintaining and upgrading expensive on-premises systems, in addition to making them better, cheaper and faster. They want the CIO to be a strategy innovator.

Just like the CFO a generation ago moved from the back office to the front office, CIOs are being invited to grab a seat there, as well. At this strategy table the conversation is flowing—how can we take full advantage of business apps and mange the related risks, where best can we deploy our scant IT resources for marketing purposes, and is there a tool that can make demand forecasting more robust to improve planning?

Dollars and cents and bits and bytes are giving way to strategic discussions predicated on driving profitable business growth.

This is a best-case scenario, of course. And it requires that CIOs and CFOs simply get along better. Each must find ways of speaking the same language—CFOs getting in touch with their inner CIO and vice versa.

Interestingly, the complex technology and sophisticated finance that initially separated these two leaders due to their numbing nuances have been made simpler by, of all things, technology. Ten years from now, who knows? CFOs and CIOs—those strange bedfellows—just might be best pals.

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