I have worked in varying roles across the technology sector for over 26 years. These roles have covered sales, technical and management functions. The one commonality I have noticed over the years is a continual angst around reporting lines for the CIO or IT Manager. Especially here in NZ, its common for the most senior IT position to report to the CFO. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see more CIO’s reporting directly to the CEO and recognised as valued members of the executive leadership team but reporting to the CFO is not all bad – let me explain.
Reporting to the CEO is not all beer and skittles.
There is a common misconception that “if only you had the ear of the CEO the business would understand our world better”. The CEO is focused on strategy, growth, performance and ensuring that they are clearing the path for their executive team to execute.
If you cannot sell your technology story to the CFO, its not going to be any easier selling it to the CEO. Executive team meetings are focused across the business, and technology is not likely to get any more air time than it does now unless it is addressing in clear and unambiguous terms how you are either going to remove problems or give tangible gains. You need to be able to sell your ideas and solutions to more than one person, and you will be up against a plethora of other ideas and options coming from some strong voices with their own agendas.
CFO’s are smart people.
If you are struggling to get your CFO to understand your world, its time to take a step back and consider you may be the problem, or your communication skills at least. The CFO is focused almost entirely on the whole business, they are across most aspects of the organisation (like you are) and have a good idea of the challenges and opportunities faced.
The CFO’s that I have worked with just want a simple business case – What we need to do, Why we need to do it, What’s it going to cost and some analysis around the ROI. They don’t want or need a lot of detail, but they will have some key things that they are looking for – ask them what they expect and need – they will tell you. Even better, ask them to help you develop the business case, they will teach you as much as you teach them.
CFO’s are happy to help.
I have never met a CFO that was not prepared to invest time in me when I asked them to. Make a conscious effort to learn more about their role, what they do and how they make decisions. The lessons you learn from your CFO will make you a better IT leader – the skills are essential if you want to grow your career and have better success at selling up.
Most importantly you will learn their language and get better at communicating with them – trust me, when you are on the executive team and reporting to the CEO, your CFO can be your strongest supporting voice if you are the one that is demonstrating good business acumen.
My Top Tips
- Ask your CFO to help you better learn how financial management works.
- Ask your CFO what their most pressing challenges are – and don’t immediately suggest a tech solution.
- Make sure you are all over risk management and you are reporting on this monthly
- Demonstrate your wider knowledge of business outside of your technology expertise.
- Include interesting technology articles that will help to educate your CFO in your monthly reporting.
I’d love to help any IT leaders grow more and expand their horizons. If you want to have a chat, drop me a line here.