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Does a CFO Need to know as much about IT as a CIO?

Roger Frederick's Profile


Topic Expert
Keith Perry
Title: Director of Global Accounting
Company: Agrinos, Inc.
(Director of Global Accounting, Agrinos, Inc.) |

Hopefully, No.

I've run IT a few times, and it has always come down to much more of a managerial and strategy-tactic-operation management issue than an IT issue.

A CFO, and any CxO, needs to have a much more intimate knowledge of IT than we did 30 years ago, but that doesn't make us experts (IMHO). I am *aware* of much of the detail that goes into the decisions that are made, but very seldom am I cutting-edge; I have influenced change, but that is an outlier. A good CIO will be influencing change in a way that we, as CFOs will influence change in treasury, quote-to-cash, and other areas where by necessity we are the thought leaders.

So; yes. We must be informed and look for opportunity. However, even if there is no CIO, we should strive to build an IT staff that is smarter than we are. Unless you're a dual role CIO / CFO (they do exist), I think it is more important that you focus on the F/A environment.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, |

I agree with Keith. The reason why anyone hires consultants, experts whether in-house or out of house is because they are that, the experts.

Not to say you shouldn't have a good grasp on technology, where it's going, and some pro's and con's, but one could say that about all aspects of your job and company. On a similar note, you should be familiar with most of the basic User terms and commands, which can only help you communicate with both IT and non-IT employees.

Chris Shumate
Title: Accounting Manager
Company: Dominion Development Group, LLC
LinkedIn Profile
(Accounting Manager, Dominion Development Group, LLC) |

I have been wondering about this lately also. When I posed the question in May of this year about what successful CFOs and Controllers read, I received a ton of responses. A few of these responses included IT related items.

Below are some of the items:
Stephen Roulac: 3 TECHNOLOGY - Role of information, hardware, software, systems, programming language, important new developments: cloud computing, big data, etc.

Joan Varrone: If you are in technology then I would add Techcrunch and Mashable to keep abreast of trends and new business models.

Doug Thompson: I'm surprised no one has mentioned Business Week. I have read it cover-to-cover for years, and every week I am amazed at how excellent and well-chosen every article is, literally. Broad coverage of industry, finance, technology etc. Pick up a copy and see what I mean. if you're interested in technology start-ups, you should be reading And is an aggregator of daily tech news.

Charles Esene: Personally, my reading is eclectic and broadbased and ranges from personal effectiveness (leadership, emotional intelligence, people mgt, communication etc), to IT and areas I am keeping tabs on (e.g. Compliance, M&A etc) and even non-finance stuff.

Even has a section relating to technology. The company I work for is relatively small, no CIO, only an IT manager because of the lack of overall IT work needed. He is great at IT technical things, but as far as some of the complicated IT jobs, no way. Yet my former employer was large. Over 350 employees when I left with locations in 6 or so states. That company needed a CIO and a CFO.

I think it all boils down to a CFO, controller, etc. must know enough about technology to determine what systems will benefit the finance function. Especially in the age of cloud computing, remote access, and the like. A CIO without finance knowledge has no place (IMHO) to decide whether SAP, Sage products, GreatPlains, etc is best for the company. Nor should a CIO be able to decide if cloud computing is best for the company. I am not convinced yet that cloud computing is for every company.

Topic Expert
Barrett Peterson
Title: Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis
Company: TTX
(Senior Manager, Actg Stnds & Analysis, TTX) |

I am not sure that is realistic, nor is such a level of technical knowledge. A solid knowledge of capabilities, limits, and options, together with a good understanding of business requirements and emerging opportunities is the crucial need. The use is the (like finance) is an enabler and benchmark.

Topic Expert
Regis Quirin
Title: Director of Finance
Company: Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP
LinkedIn Profile
(Director of Finance, Gibney Anthony & Flaherty LLP) |

No, and if he/she does you are headed for friction. The two specialties work together very closely, but they should not overlap. A CFO that knows technology will always second guess the decisions of the CIO. However, often times young companies combine the roles mainly because of the large ticket that comes with technology.

Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

I talked about this in my last webinar. The CFO has been driving COOs out of the office for the last 3 - 4 years. Now, it seems the CFOs are unseating the CIOs. And it is the next trend I see happening for the very marketable CFO (along with international operations experience).

It is more of the CFO who has a controller under him to handle all the technical accounting functions. The CFO will manage IT in place of CIOs, but have that technical role filled by someone who is a sharp-shooter.

So from my perspective - for certain industries - CFOs will need to know more than they ever have about IT ... enough to strategically lead that function.

Andrew Zezas
Title: Host and CEO
Company: CFO Studio and Real Estate Strategies Co..
(Host and CEO, CFO Studio and Real Estate Strategies Corporation) |

A CFO's role, in many cases, includes overseeing a growing list of departments and resource concentrations. With IT becoming so critical to how many companies succeed, and in particular to how the finance function best serves the needs of the overall enterprise, it is imperative that the CFO have considerably more than merely a working knowledge of IT. But, does a CFO need to know as much about IT as the CIO? No. Otherwise, why have a CIO?

(Accounting Manager) |

As a controller for small to medium sized businesses over the years, I found that the most successfull - meaning the most effective - CFO's also wear the hat of CDO. Chief Data Officer. If you have a crack tech team for the nuts & bolts and CIO that can handle the engineering, then having a good handle on the care and maintenance and architecture of the data itself is crucial for a good CFO.

Topic Expert
Brenda Goudey
Title: CFO/VP of Finance
Company: KDR Designer Showrooms
(CFO/VP of Finance, KDR Designer Showrooms) |

I agree with Andrew that a CFO does not need to know as much about IT as the CIO - if there is a CIO, they should be providing leadership and direction in that area. However, if the business is not large enough to have a true CIO but rather a 'techie' just keeping the hardware and software functioning, then typically the CFO is the one to step in and provide the leadership and direction. The abililty to do this does require the CFO to keep a firm grasp on what is available (and on the horizon) for firms of their size.

In the end, it always comes back to the fact that the CFO is the most concerned and maintaining the integrity of the corporate data. So let's face it, even if there is a CIO and it isn't our job, we're probably going to be annoyingly looking over their shoulder just to make sure we're comfortable with their decisions.

Cindy Kraft
Title: CFO Coach
Company: Executive Essentials
(CFO Coach, Executive Essentials) |

Interesting article on this topic following the CFO conference in Vegas ...

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