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The strange case of the CFO and the CIO

Remember the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? It’s about two personalities living in one body, whereby one represents good and the other one represents evil. The two personalities fight each other and depending on the situation one of the two temporarily wins the battle, but at the end of the story, they both loose.

Now look at companies where the CFO also carries the hat of the CIO. What can we learn when we apply the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde perspective in these cases?

First of all, the CFO is always dominant. There is no equal relationship between the two personalities. When the CIO presents a plan and the CFO needs to approve the necessary funding, the urge will always be present to cut the budget. It’s too easy for the CFO to overrule his alter-ego. Especially because the CFO is seen as successful when he tightly controls the budget. This is a typical zero-sum game: when the CFO wins, the CIO loses.

Secondly, companies that hang on to this kind of organizational structure are still thinking about IT as a pure supporting, technical function. They consider the IT department as a necessary evil, burning money to keep the on-prem servers running and PC’s and laptops in operation. In this perspective, the CFO can indeed play the role of CIO. The problem is: the world has changed; business dynamics have evolved and IT – now called “digital” - is injected in the core of the business. This requires the CIO to play a different role, much more business oriented and innovation driven. Pretty difficult to combine with the DNA of a CFO.

Thirdly, think about focus. Does a full-time CFO have the time to be a successful CIO? Can the full-time CFO define the digital strategy of a company? Can the full-time CFO initiate and drive the necessary change in the organization? Lead the execution of the digital strategy? Watch technology trends in their industry? Focus is a necessity to be successful, especially in the digital era where competitors can arise from scratch and disrupt your business model at the blink of an eye.

To conclude, let’s go back to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. At the end of the story, they die. Translate this to our business example: keeping the old-school CFO and CIO combination alive will prevent you from getting ready for the digital reality. It will prevent you from making the right strategic choices and in the long run it may even mortgage the future of your company. So, what to do?

You could call upon Arcade Consultancy. We launched our fourth pillar in our offering, namely “digital transformation” which is built on three cornerstones:

  • Strategy: defining your digital agenda (starting from a business perspective)
  • Management: realizing your digital agenda (think of it as “Chief Digital Officer-as-a-service”)
  • People: supporting your people to adopt your digital agenda (the soft part is always the hardest part)

More information can be found here

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About the author

An adaption of Jack Welch’s quote pictures it well: “If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, it is time for action“. Today, that’s exactly what is going on in many organizations in different industries. Old paradigms are being overthrown by new business models. Disruptive forces create lots of challenges and a myriad of business opportunities.

As independent management consultant, I help organizations to define and implement their digital agenda - the strategic and tactical plan for the future, thereby capitalizing on the wave of digital transformation.

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