How CIO/CFO Relationships Are Evolving - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
IT Leadership
News
12/6/2017
09:00 AM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
100%
0%

How CIO/CFO Relationships Are Evolving

In an era when organizations have to move forward quickly with innovative -- often expensive -- tech initiatives, CIOs and CFOs may have to form a partnership.

Digital transformation is driving huge organizational changes, not the least of which is the evolving relationships of CIOs and CFOs.

Traditionally, the two roles have been somewhat at odds because CIOs must continually invest in technologies and CFOs are ultimately responsible for financial performance. In today's' highly competitive business environment, CIOs and CFOs need to partner at a strategic level to drive growth and enable organizational agility.

From old school to new school

Data provider Dun & Bradstreet is going through a digital transformation that allows the 176-year-old company to behave and compete like a much younger entity. To get there, the CFO and former CIO (now Chief Content and Technology Officer) are working in partnership to set strategies and execute them.

"We come together quite a lot because what we're trying to drive is more innovation at a faster clip in a more efficient way," said Richard Veldran, CFO of Dun & Bradstreet. "It all comes down to data and technology which is at the core of many of the things we're trying to get done here."

Image: Pixabay
Image: Pixabay

As the sheer amount of data continues to grow exponentially, Dun & Bradstreet has more opportunities to drive growth by monetizing data. However, to do that, the CFO and CTO need to work as partners.

"So much of it now depends on the alignment of your technical capabilities and investments," said Curtis Brown, chief content and technology officer at the firm. "Rich and I spend a lot more time talking about our strategy and our execution against that strategy. I would say that's the single biggest change."

The partnership allows Veldran and Brown to allocate resources more effectively and make joint decisions about where to invest and how to invest. They're also working together in a lean agile fashion which enables them to accomplish more in less time while reducing the risk of big project failures.

Focused on high growth

Hitachi Vantara CIO Renee McKaskle and CFO Lori Varlas act as if they're co-founders and, in a way, they are. Both women were hired into their respective positions about two years ago to spearhead digital transformation. Years before, Varlas and McKaskle had become acquainted while working at Peoplesoft.

"We're two women in non-traditional women's roles, so from the get-go, we bonded on the common vision of where we're going to take this company and how our individual skills and experiences added to that story and towards that journey," said Varlas. "I think the other thing that bonded us was time is not our friend, particularly in terms of technology, so we had quickly align on what the business strategy was and figure out how we leverage our own backgrounds and experiences to make that vision a reality."

They both say it's important to learn from each other, listen to each other and be aligned on the vision or outcome.

"As we work really closely with the business, things come up. Someone might approach Renee or [me] for different purposes, but it springs to mind, 'Has Renee's cybersecurity team looked at that?' " said Varlas. Or, "Does Lori know about that for investment purposes?" said McKaskle." There's a bit of a tag team going there because we both have a common understanding and purpose of how it fits together."

Empathy is key

Cross-functional collaboration is necessary to drive effective digital transformation; however, everyone interviewed for this blog said empathy for the other person's role is critical.

"I can sometimes be a propeller head, but to think more empathically and as a partnership toward the enablement and delivery of the operation of the company, that's where folks sometimes get stuck," said Dun & Bradstreet's Brown. "CFOs do have to put pressure on delivering a certain set of results within a certain financial framework while [CIOs and] CTOs are trying to drive technical improvements that often require investment."

As businesses undergo digital transformation, the CIO and CFO have to move quickly and in unison. The best results come when they're aligned on the business outcomes they've trying to achieve. That alignment also helps CIOs and CFOs overcome some of the tensions that stem from traditionally separate roles.

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include ... View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Slideshows
How to Land a Job in Cloud Computing
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  6/19/2019
Commentary
How to Convince Wary Customers to Share Personal Information
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author,  6/17/2019
Commentary
The Art and Science of Robot Wrangling in the AI Era
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  6/11/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
2019 State of DevOps
2019 State of DevOps
DevOps is needed in today's business environment, where improved application security is essential and users demand more applications, services, and features fast. We sought to see where DevOps adoption and deployment stand, this report summarizes our survey findings. Find out what the survey revealed today.
Video
Current Issue
A New World of IT Management in 2019
This IT Trend Report highlights how several years of developments in technology and business strategies have led to a subsequent wave of changes in the role of an IT organization, how CIOs and other IT leaders approach management, in addition to the jobs of many IT professionals up and down the org chart.
Slideshows
Flash Poll