Speaking the Same Language in the C-Suite
With digital technology integral to business operations, a solid CFO-CIO partnership is vital. That’s why it’s critical to understand the top challenges CIOs face today.
Today’s CFOs face an ever-expanding set of oversight responsibilities, but it’s simply not possible to become an expert in every function. The good news is that you don’t have to.
Successful CFOs develop, cultivate and lean on strong relationships with leaders in other areas. This is especially true when it comes to technology. Digital technology is woven throughout operations—positioning tech to play a strong role in strategy, growth, profitability and even a business’s viability. One of the most important relationships today’s CFO can build is a close partnership with the chief information officer (CIO).
Bridging the CFO-CIO Gap
CIOs face their own set of challenges. Learning their language and landscape can help position you as a stronger ally. And having a clear understanding of what your CIO is likely dealing with—and how you can be supportive—is the first step to building a collaborative relationship.
Top three CIO challenges:
- Challenge 1: Perception
There’s been a lot of media buzz about the downside of technology. Words like “business dislocation” and “obsolescence” can cause real concern in the C-suite. That puts constant pressure on your CIO to stay plugged in to trends, changes and competitors’ digital strategies—which is no easy task given the pace of digital adoption and change.
What can you do about it? As CFO, you can use your position to advocate for a more collaborative effort in understanding the threats and opportunities presented by new technologies. Bringing the company together in these efforts, you can create a set of clear priorities that cut through the confusion—and alleviate the burden on the CIO.
- Challenge 2: Investment
Too often, IT is seen as a cost center rather than as a vital catalyst for business growth. Proving the validity of a technology investment is an uphill battle, and CIOs may feel burdened to prove ROI on their own.
What can you do about it? Thinking through financial models and success metrics is your sweet spot. You can leverage these tools to help the CIO develop a strong and credible approach to tech investments that demonstrates specific, tangible benefits to the company over time.
- Challenge 3: Insight
Satisfying the needs of both finance and technology is a balancing act. The natural push-pull relationship between finance and technology can be exacerbated when the CIO feels that the CFO is only concerned about keeping costs low.
What can you do about it? Build a relationship founded on knowledge-sharing with your CIO. More than just learning about the tech world, you’re also helping the CIO have a fuller understanding of your strategic priorities. Together, you can create a system of checks and balances that can foster stronger collaboration and fuel success.
Remember: It’s a Constant Process
Establishing and growing a strong CFO-CIO relationship doesn’t happen overnight. It takes consistent attention and tending. But the key factor to success is the same as in any relationship: trust.
By keeping the needs and challenges of your CIO in mind and approaching the conversation with empathy, you can strengthen the entire company through the trust you build.