John Abel, Head of Technology and Cloud for UK, Ireland and Israel
There has never been more pressure on the CFO to boost productivity and drive growth, while at the same time keeping costs in check. All modern businesses are in a race against their competitors to move forward, with little opportunity to slow the pace. This race will intensify as time goes on, and there is no place for organizations to take their eyes off the prize.
This places huge demands on the CFO, a central figure to any business’s forward motion. A major part of a CFO’s remit is to ensure relevant data is collected and analysed, and that the insight generated is distributed across the business as useful knowledge. Not having clear sight and quality knowledge can result in a business missing out on opportunities to progress and grow, which is not an option.
The strategic overview vital for meeting such demands is well within the CFO’s grasp. They have a view of the entire business, and have access to data from a huge variety of sources ranging from traditional, purely financial data through to less tangible information, such as social sentiment and other ‘unstructured’ data.
However, the CFO is often hampered by outdated technology, incapable of rising to the tasks asked of it. Complex IT systems built up over many years can include elements that aren’t compatible, or have been patched together rather than streamlined. Convoluted and highly customized, integration with new technology services designed to meet modern digital business needs can be difficult to achieve. The likely result is that IT teams spend more time servicing technology than working with its in-house clients to deliver meaningful outputs, and the CIO and CFO are as frustrated as each other with the situation.
The need for improvement in IT systems is widely recognized, as is the need for a close alignment between the CFO and CIO in working towards the aims of the business. A study from Oracle, ’Driving Transformation from Within’, found that 54 percent of finance leaders feel their current systems are unlikely to cope with future demand, and that 73 percent of finance leaders realized that closer alliance between the CIO and CFO is important to achieving digital transformation of the finance function.
In order to overcome these challenges, the finance function must transition to a unified cloud infrastructure that combines the options and capabilities of on-premise, private and public cloud technology across the entire business.
By taking this approach, the CFO will tap into new levels of flexibility and agility, enabling them to deliver on increased expectations from the business.
But in order for this to work, the CFO and CIO must form of a strategic alliance to develop a clearly articulated enterprise cloud strategy that sets out how capabilities can be integrated in a way that means the relevant data and IT resources are joined together.
Such a strategy will help the CFO join the dots so they can specify required outputs knowing that their delivery can be enabled by the CIO. Meanwhile the CIO will be able to breathe new life into struggling technology infrastructure, transform the role of IT in the service of the business and establish their position as a key enabler of progress.
It’s clear to me that the CFO and CIO have little to gain from continuing a ‘patch and hope for the best’ strategy for the organization’s IT infrastructure, and much to lose. By making full use of the agility, flexibility and reliability of cloud, both will benefit, and the business can continue to move forwards in the race to growth.