06:50 PM
Keith Fowlkes
Keith Fowlkes

CIO + CFO Doesn’t Equal Mars Vs. Venus

From my decades of experience, CIOs and CFOs have more in common than you may think.

Once upon a time in a land far away, one of my first CFOs told me that "technology is the toilet that keeps on flushing." These were not encouraging words for a then-young CIO. I took them as a punch to my professional gut.

Now, with a few more years under my belt and a better understanding of the bigger picture, I understand what he meant. He was saying that technology is a costly resource that has no obvious return on investment. My job as a CIO then (and now) has been to translate technology expenditures into positive business and educational outcomes to show an ROI. I hope I do a better job today than I did back then.

CIOs often have trouble communicating and translating the linkages between technology development and growth and overreaching institutional mission and goals. Most problematic, CIOs resist working with CFOs on a strong formula for return on technology investments.

I'm fortunate to have a very strong relationship with our CFO here at Centre College. It's certainly not the first time I've worked with first-rate colleagues in that seat, but this current one helps me to reflect on the good and bad times.

[Big data, social, and other trends are changing the workplace. Here's how to stay ahead of the curve: Future Of Work: 5 Trends For CIOs.]

CIOs and CFOs must both understand institutional goals and commit to seeing the advantages of a sound technology infrastructure and the strategic use of institutional data. We must find new ways to use technology to help our people work more effectively. The key to a strong partnership is mutual respect and an understanding that both parties want the same success for the institution but have different responsibilities in achieving their common goals.

All CIOs focus on the pillars of administrative software, secure transactional systems, networks, enterprise applications, telephony, institutional data, data analytics, and all the services that are key to keeping things working. Unfortunately, most higher-education CIOs struggle to find time to think strategically about the future of technology on their campuses and how they can use it to improve services for their various constituents (more on that point later).

Read the rest on InformationWeek...

Keith is a veteran chief information officer serving as CIO for Saint Mary's College- Notre Dame, IN, University of Virginia-Wise and, most recently, Centre College. He is a co-founder and board member of the Higher Education Systems & Services Consortium (HESS) and has ... View Full Bio
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User Rank: Author
9/10/2014 | 10:47:29 AM
Today, most CIOs have studied computer science and engineering. Those who have advanced their careers to the CIO level have business knowlege and can communicate with business leaders -- or as they say, align technology with the business goals. I  don't see how any CIO can succeed without communicating the value of technology investments to the CFO. I can see how there can be tension in the relationship, and maybe they do speak a different language. But, if a firm is spending $200 million on IT  infrastructure, application development, microwave data feeds, data centers and a new trading platform, the CFO's job is to understand the RIO.  CIOs looking at more strategic projects, like big data analytics, make assumptions and projections of ROI to sell the project and get funding. So this shouldn't be new to CIOs.
User Rank: Moderator
9/10/2014 | 7:50:07 AM
For a while, many of my CIOs were actually business people (with little tech experience). And for a while, the CFO ran IT. AT both banks, it really didn't work that well. A CFO doesn't have the IT knowledge. They are great at managing the bottom line, but they do little to drive new technology or real efficiency.

A better fit is the one you describe...a CIO with good communication skills and business knowledge.
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