The CIO Through the Eyes of the CFO

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Guest post by Phil Garland

I had the opportunity to have lunch with 8 chief financial officers in Denver last week.  Our conversation started with why the CFO should care about IT and what they need to know about technology. Our discussion quickly got to the topic of the roles of the CIO in this changing world of cloud, mobility and social networking.  These enabling technologies have made technology much more accessible to non-IT users which raises the question on the role of the CIO and the IT organization in the future. Several CFOs initially questioned whether there is even a need to involve the CIO in making decisions to leverage cloud and mobile applications given that those services are provided outside the four walls of the enterprise.  However everyone quickly recognized that there is a need to have someone who is technologically savvy  available to advise the CFO and others business leaders on how these emerging technologies can most effectively advance their business.

One CFO described how his CIO has taken on a very active role in partnering with the business units to help drive business innovation.  While the CIO had stayed connected with the business units in the past, the conversations have now shifted from tactical IT needs to a more strategic dialogue.   He described how the CIO has set up regular innovation meetings with a team from each business unit to discuss ways technology can improve their business. Some of our other clients have taken a similar approach using labs to facilitate the business-IT discussions.

In our discussions  there was a realization that the value of the CIO hasn’t been reduced at all – it has just changed.   In fact, the need and value that the CIO can play in advancing the business may now be greater than ever.    The CFOs agreed that they now need the CIOs to play the role of technology consultant or advisor to help them get the greatest value out of their business driven technology decisions.  This provides a need and opportunity for the CIOs to be even more aligned with the business.    While CIOs are still needed and expected to manage IT operations and IT vendors,  there is now a need for the CIO to also play a more strategic role in helping their company drive business innovation.

How does your CFO view the role of the CIO?

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  • Abbie

    great to (finally) hear the recognition from CFOs for a strategic partnership with CIOs

  • I have to
    start celebrating these small victories, and get over my disdain of the
    head-shaking ridiculousness of the divide between IT and the business that fostered
    the need for the CIO’s role to “change” in the first place. Okay,
    celebration over.

    the recognition of the strategic nature of the CIO”s role as a
    “change” shrouds the fact that the business has long neglected its
    role in governing information technology. This neglect is what reduced many IT
    organizations to their ‘cost center’ role and their relegation to delivering
    efficiencies vs. enabling enterprise strategy. If enterprises don’t govern IT,
    then they are not ensuring IT is aligned with the business. They’re not
    ensuring IT is delivering value to the business. They’re not ensuring IT is
    appropriately managing risk, resources and performance. In lieu of ensuring
    these things, the only due-diligence at the disposal of business leaders (and
    the CFO) is cost control (or more accurately, cost cutting).

    I don’t view
    this as a change in the role of the CIO – it’s a correction. Many will say,
    “So what?” Who cares why it’s happening, as long as it happens.”
    It matters because viewing the “new role” of the CIO as a
    “change” will disguise the organizational and systematic deficiencies
    born of poor IT governance. If enterprises viewed the new role as a “correction”
    they are far more likely to spend the time investigating how, why, where, and
    when things went wrong for the CIO – and by association, IT. They might then
    uncover their enterprise-level defects in IT governance, process and process management, and organizational
    culture. They’ll then have a chance to eliminate the “us and them” relationship
    between IT and business once and for all. When they do, all future “changes” to
    the CIO and IT will be the result of a natural evolution driven by the business.