It wasn’t long ago that roles in the enterprise C-suite were clearly defined. CFOs supported corporate strategies by implementing financial planning and analytic processes, and CIOs in turn chose and deployed technology, collected data, and managed the IT infrastructures needed to enable those processes.
But the cloud has changed all that. Today CFOs, HR executives and business teams can go directly to cloud vendors to acquire their favorite enterprise applications. Tidemark, Workday and others manage the IT infrastructure and deliver SLA-driven enterprise performance management and workforce planning capabilities that once were housed and managed on premise. And business users can gain access to their data, build data models and processes, and acquire actionable insights directly from the cloud.
These changes have sparked a debate about the shifting roles of CFOs (who are now claiming a more prominent seat at the corporate strategy table) and of CIOs (whose ownership of infrastructure and assets may be diminishing, but who have more time and resources to devote to innovation and enablement).
It’s not that this shift wasn’t already underway. Prior to joining Tidemark, I spent several years at VMware and IBM building and marketing datacenter and cloud products, and working directly with Fortune 500 CIOs and their IT teams. Over time I saw CIO priorities evolve from keeping a lid on IT costs to nimbly delivering the enterprise applications that their business counterparts needed. The cloud has only accelerated this transformation, and today’s CIOs are looking to act more as value enablers than landlords of IT assets.
This could make CFOs and CIOs the closest of allies. As transformative CFOs look for ways to increase organizational performance, efficiency and collaboration, they can benefit from working with CIOs in five ways.
- Align strategic initiatives. Most enterprises are not only evaluating cloud-based business applications, but are also driving initiatives such asenterprise mobility, business analytics and cloud computing. CIOs have a “bird’s eye view” across these IT-enabled initiatives. CFOs should take advantage of this to ensure these initiatives are completely in sync.
- Tame big data. The growing popularity of cloud-based enterprise applications makes data management more crucial than ever. CFOs can empower their CIOs to build organization-wide strategies for storing and managing structured and unstructured data. Power users across the business can then focus on defining processes and building business-specific data models, both of which are good fits for their expertise.
- Push business insight to the edge. Business data and relevant insights are spread across an exploding number of data sources, some of which span the organization and others are specific to individual lines of business. This can make it difficult for business users to leverage analytics. But with the CFO’s encouragement and the CIO’s leadership, IT can become the resident expert on organization-wide data integration.
- Use tribal knowledge to choose the best cloud solutions. Every enterprise team, from Finance to HR to marketing, is evaluating cloud-based analytics and other cloud-based solutions. Working together, CFOs and CIOs can determine a process to standardize evaluations, with CFOs focusing on business requirements and CIOs zeroing in on performance, scalability and solution integration.
- Control data security and drive compliance. As enterprises move to cloud services, they need to pay special attention to data security policies. IT teams can help define who has access to which services, how data sources are secured, and how to be audit-ready.
In a world where business users own processes and cloud-based solutions deliver the infrastructure and services, the CIO role must adapt to survive. Transformative CFOs can greatly accelerate their own efforts to create a culture of performance by collaborating with their counterparts in IT. At a time when everyone is looking to derive the most value from every transaction or decision, CFOs and CIOs are stronger when they work together.