The CFO as IT champion

Stumping for technology investment isn’t just the responsibility of the chief information officer or chief technology officer. The CFO plays an important role, too, according to Jack McCullough, president, CFO Leadership Council, and author of the upcoming book "Secrets of Rockstar CFOs."

“Elite CFOs are now responsible for using technology to give their organizations a competitive advantage,” he explains. “Not so long ago, CFOs viewed technology as a tool to save money or improve efficiency, but now they incorporate tech investments into the company’s strategy.”

Additionally, the rise of financial technology – which impacts how every organization keeps its books, analyzes its performance, and pays and gets paid – gives the CFO an additional stake.

“And, finally,” McCullough notes, “CFOs do control the purse strings. If they aren’t on board, the investment isn’t happening.”

According to survey data from Robert Half, CFOs and tech executives collaborate most frequently on technology investments and business systems changes. Staff technology training, cybersecurity readiness and digital transformation efforts also create opportunities for coordination.

The CFO, CTO and CIO all possess highly cross-functional responsibilities, so they have a unique perspective on organizational operations and performance. When CFOs understand the factors impacting tech and information systems’ leaders, they can better support the overall vision.

McCullough suggests meeting frequently outside of regular executive team meetings to keep lines of communication open, which helps on two fronts:

1. Building trust with transparency. Even with more collaboration between tech and finance, CFOs sometimes have to say no, which, McCullough notes, “does not make you the most popular kid in school. Make sure the other executives realize that their voices were heard and respected, and that they understand the reasons for a rejection.”

2. Preparing better budget requests. Your perspective strengthens the CIO or CTO’s budget requests by adding important financial perspective to ensure that:

  • IT investments are presented in terms of their ROI. “And, not just as measured in dollars and cents, though that is a part of it,” McCullough notes. “Beyond the money, how does a tech investment make the company more competitive, how does it empower the employees, how does it accelerate decision-making? If you can sell this vision to the board and CEO, the investment has no-brainer status.”
  • Fintech investments are endorsed by other executives. The financial operation is in the middle of its own digital transformation and a closer relationship with the CIO/CTO can help you make a stronger case for the technology you need.
  • Profitability is factored in. Most IT budgets don’t include profitability because they usually cost money and instead of generating revenue. The CFO can help IT be “financially prudent while helping the company execute its strategic objectives, protecting its assets – data, employee and customer privacy, reputation – and empowering employees,” he adds.

Be a stronger champion for tech investment by reaching out to the CIO or CTO to find common ground. Then identify opportunities to develop a technology investment strategy that meets their needs while ensuring short- and long-term gains for the organization as a whole.

 

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