CIOs, CFOs Can Bond Over Business Objectives

Ann All
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Seven Ways to Become Partners with the CFO

Great tips for building a partnership with your company's top financial executive.

A few months back I wrote a post about how CIOs and CFOs could be valuable allies. Though a worthy goal, it won't necessarily be easy since CIOs and CFOs sometimes find themselves at odds over IT spending. Not only that, but some CIOs who report to the CFO may chafe at this, thinking they should rightfully report to the CEO.


Still, there's no doubt a close relationship between the CIO and CFO is possible and can be beneficial to both. Symantec CIO David Thompson and CFO James Beer provide proof in a Forbes interview. Thompson calls Beer "a fantastic partner" who "understands the value of an investment in technology." Working closely with Beer has helped bring a business perspective to every IT investment, Thompson says.


While Beer stresses the importance of standardization, simplification and automation, he's not averse to spending money on IT to create added revenue and help lower costs throughout the organization. Beer is apparently open to the idea that not every investment yields a direct bottom-line benefit. Says Thompson:

Now we're getting better discipline around every dollar that the company spends, and asking, "What's the return?" And the return can be a positive one with a customer in terms of more loyalty and efficiency in working with customers. But it also can be a true bottom-line benefit for the company.

While we read and hear a lot about CIOs' need to possess an understanding of business issues, not just technology issues, Beer says the same is true for CFOs:

... I don't think you want a CFO who is just interested in whatever drops out of the cotton of the spreadsheet and who isn't really necessarily taking the perspective of, "Where is the business going? What are its challenges? What have you got to get over?"

Just as some CIOs suffer from technology tunnel vision, some CFOs may focus so narrowly on finances that cost control becomes more important to them than broader strategic objectives. If both CIOs and CFOs can expand their horizons and take a broader look at the business, they'll be less likely to find themselves in opposition.

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