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Many CFOs Becoming Technology Strategists

CFOs are becoming more engaged with developing and maintaining technology stra

The job responsibilities of chief financial officers have traditionally included tasks like examining company expenses and ensuring regulatory compliance, but new risks are altering the roles of many CFOs.

Enterprise adoption of new technologies, such as cloud computing, mobile devices and social media, have brought upon new security risks for IT departments, making it vital for CFOs to become more involved in purchasing and developing security solutions.

In a recent column for FINS.com, Dartmouth College professor Robert Howell explained that CFOs should no longer be "number crunchers," instead expanding their roles to include creating and analyzing business strategies.

"Simply put, the people who have the strongest grasp of a company's finances need to be part of the strategic thinking from the ground up," Howell wrote. "Not only should they crunch the numbers on potential moves like mergers, but they should also generate strategies themselves. Strategy and finance should be like two sides of a coin - inseparable."

According to Howell, CFOs should improve their knowledge about subjects critical to the success of their enterprise, for example, technology, politics and the global economy.

Several recent studies have revealed CFOs are becoming more engaged with developing and maintaining technology strategies. According to a Getronics survey, not only is the chief information officer taking on financial responsibilities, but CFOs are getting involved with adopting cloud services, a rapidly growing technology that can reduce operating costs, increase productivity and improve efficiency.

The study found that only 2 percent of CFOs are unaware of the cloud, while 38 percent of cloud adopters said their company's financial department initiated the decision to use cloud-based technology. Additionally, 39 percent of CFOs said they contributed to developing cloud projects, but only after the IT department started the exploratory process.

While financial departments are committing more time and resources to IT strategies, it's also becoming apparent the CIO's role is also changing. Forty-three percent of financial decision makers believe CIOs will soon take on more financial tasks, indicating the overall merging of financial and IT department responsibilities, the Getronics report said.

"The role of the CIO has often been a point of contention within many organisations since its very inception," said Mark Cook, CEO of Getronics. "We're seeing CIOs moving away from previous years of having to lead on daily IT operations and maintenance into that of a provider of strategic consultancy to finance and the wider business."

The growth of cloud adoption and other enterprise technologies have opened new security vulnerabilities and increased organizational risk - one of the main reasons CFOs have shown more interest in developing IT strategies. In a recent InformationWeek report, IT expert Saul Berman said the power of cloud computing expands beyond IT, and it's vital for upper-level executives to make managing and securing cloud environments a top company priority to gain the technology's full benefits, including significantly reduced costs.

Data protection, a task historically reserved for IT personnel, is also quickly finding its way onto the list of CFO responsibilities. According to Computerworld, the recent surge of data breaches has forced finance departments to increasingly collaborate with IT departments, from the stage of developing security policies to responding to data loss incidents.

"The CFO has a strategic role in encouraging the policies and processes that enable the business to handle the risk themselves," Gartner vice president Jay Heiser told Computerworld. "It's unrealistic to expect the CFO to understand security completely, as it is for the security professional to understand finance completely."

Proformative is offering a webinar, Leveraging Technology to Elevate the Strategic Role of Finance , on March 7th that will offer finance leaders actionable advice and insights to embrace the role of technology strategist

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