We all know the feeling of dread that comes when waiting for a major project to be approved by the finance department. Some of us might even have a bit of inner dialogue: “Why does the CFO get to choose what’s right for my team? Finance doesn’t know anything about it!” Submitting the request can sometimes feel like throwing a Hail Mary—closing our eyes and hoping for the best. Hopefully the CFO is in a good mood—or not paying too much attention—to let the project slide through.
Fortunately, that type of relationship with the finance team, and the CFO in particular, is falling by the wayside in the digital age. We’ve talked a lot about the importance of breaking down silos in today’s work environment. It’s no longer feasible to be an agile, forward-thinking company without collaborative decision-making. That doesn’t just apply to teams like marketing, customer service, and IT, however. It goes across the board, from your human resources teams to your CFO.
The digital transformation is forcing today’s CFOs to get up close and personal with technology. According to a Deloitte survey, CFOs are asking questions about the technology architecture to get a better understanding of the programs and systems in place. They’re learning more about how technology works, how it can save money and boost sales, and how it can improve overall efficiencies—all of which fall under a CFO’s purview. That’s why it is so critical that CIOs and CFOs begin to partner on the road to digital transformation, whether that means modernizing legacy systems or developing a new technology to improve customer engagement. The following are a few ways CIOs can help CFOs better understand the importance of technology as we move ahead in the digital marketplace.
Speak His or Her Language
Your CFO may not have a technology background, and that’s OK. Use your communication skills to strip away the technical names and descriptions, and instead show your CFO the power of what your tech can do. Speak his or her language. Include data details like how much time and money can be saved, how many new customers could be gained, and how many new sales can be added using the software or apps you are recommending. If your CFO is interested, offer a demonstration to help him or her understand how the software works and how it will benefit your team.
Focus on Benefits, Not Buzzwords
Things like analytics, big data, and machine learning have a real, tangible benefit for your company. Rather than throwing around buzzwords, focus on the true value they offer. Analytics can help you improve targeting for the marketing team; machine learning can help you personalize customer interactions; big data can help your company make more informed investment decisions. These are the kinds of benefits your CFO will care about.
Focus on Long-Term Growth
Says one writer at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, “A perennial challenge for CFOs is finding the right balance between spending and investing without hampering productivity and competitiveness. In the mobile age, this balancing act is more important than ever if companies want to stay one step ahead of disruptors.” Know that your CFO will always be weighing the cost and risk with the good you are offering. Explain how the project will benefit the company in the long-term. Don’t hide the costs! Just explain how the impact will pay dividends.
Share the Industry’s Story
It can be easy to miss the forest for the trees. Help your CFO understand what’s happening in your industry, not just in your company. Give them a rundown of what your competitors are doing in the technology area, and how your company can be or has been impacted by falling behind. Show them how your project will not just help your company grow, but it will help your company get ahead of your competitors.
Technology is an ever-changing beast. Share news and updates on new technology impacting your industry with your CFO, and schedule regular meetings to discuss new opportunities to save money, increase sales, and boost productivity. This kind of collaboration will help your entire company work more efficiently, eliminating delays and last-minute budget surprises.
There is no room for silos in the digital economy, even in the world of finance. Although you may never have considered your CFO a member of the tech team, it’s time to start. Doing so will help your company move even further ahead, and create an important ally in the digital transformation.
Additional Resources on This Topic:
Who Leads Digital Transformation? Not the CMO …
CIOs Leading the Digital Transformation Through Innovation
Strange Bedfellows: Why Your CIO and CMO Need to Deepen Their Relationship