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From adversary to ally: Building a CFO-CIO alliance

The CFO and CIO need to foster a relationship based on their shared need of accurate data to advance their reputations as strategic business leaders.

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“If CIOs and CFOs understood they face the same problems, there would be a greater opportunity for them to work together and succeed as business leaders in their organizations.”

—Myles Suer, principal solutions marketing manager at Informatica

Many CFOs are evolving from traditional back-office controllers to strategic business leaders. Their ability to drive business strategy and affect change at their organizations depends on insights gleaned from accurate and consolidated financial data. This is a prime opportunity for IT leaders to partner with CFOs, become more relevant to the business, and enable the enterprise to compete on data.

Unlike controllers of the past, strategic CFOs look beyond the numbers to “try to understand how the business is run,” says Myles Suer, principal solutions marketing manager at Informatica. By developing a deeper understanding of a company’s businesses, Suer says strategic CFOs can contribute and add greater value, as well as “become one of the top three business decision makers in the company.”

At the same time, by necessity, strategic CFOs are becoming key IT enablers, capable of recognizing the value generated through investments in disruptive technologies as competitive differentiators. The result is that IT is no longer viewed as a cost center, but as a means to drive business processes and competition.

Building trust in the data

Given the volume of data generated by a business every single day, it’s no wonder “CFOs are in data hell right now,” says Suer. “CFOs simply don’t trust the data they’re producing with IT. And because they don’t trust the data, they’re manually massaging it and then sending it to another system. As a result, they don’t always have real-time insight into how their company is doing or how profitable a particular customer is.”

Fortunately, “CIOs starting a conversation about data pains with the CFO,” says Suer, can put themselves in key advisory roles by underscoring the real-world implications of poorly integrated data. Together, CFOs and CIOs can address these concerns by establishing rules that support the integration and consolidation of data across the enterprise. By having an open and honest discuss about data pains, and how to eliminate them, CFOs can conduct meaningful financial and managerial analysis with confidence.

Guiding profitability from customer insights

CFOs know that profitability hinges on their ability to determine which product lines, customers, segments, and channels are the most and least successful. Equally important is a discussion of expectations—channels that seem weak now may grow exponentially in the near future.

That’s all the more reason for CIOs to assure CFOs that they can grant them access to relevant, holistic information about their ever-changing business and customers. According to Suer, “The opportunity is there for CIOs to help CFOs change their life by helping them look at profitability across the board,”

Past difficulties aside, CFOs and CIOs are more alike than they may realize. “If CIOs and CFOs understood they face the same problems,” says Suer, “there would be a greater opportunity for them to work together and succeed as business leaders in their organizations.”

Read more perspectives from Suer on the evolving role of the CFO and the strategic benefits of a CIO-CFO partnership.

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