It’s Hard Being a CFO

Being a CFO is tough enough, but for those who work in the mid-tier, it’s harder still.

You have all the issues that come with managing and organising the finances of a multi-million dollar business, which is no mean feat in itself. And, as if that wasn’t enough to fill up your week, more often than not, your boss will be kind enough to add sorting out the corporate IT to your list of responsibilities.

But It’s Just Not Fair

If the business were big enough, you’d have a Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to perform this role. But for most mid-tier businesses with revenue under $120m or so, this additional expense is deemed a luxury they can ill afford.

This doesn’t mean that your problems are any less complex though. IT for the big end of town may well be bigger, but in terms of complexity, there’s often very little in it.

Your IT manager or managed service provider could be a valuable source of help, but they’re typically too close to the technology to provide an objective, strategically aligned view. So, it comes down to the CFO, and unless you’re one of a very small percentage of senior finance professionals who’ve had the opportunity to study IT practices at length, this is a somewhat unfair burden for you to have to shoulder.

The reality for most is that they have many years of training and experience under their belt in the world of finance, but rarely can the same be said about IT. Education comes in the form of an occasional one day course, reading books, journals and blogs, and the brutality of learning on the job, making day to day decisions that will hopefully keep the lights on.

Turn of the Century

10 or 20 years ago, progressive and forward thinking CFOs went on training courses or undertook an MBA, in an attempt to keep up with the changing IT landscape. But the rate of change then is as nothing compared to today.

Today, technology change is exponential, and showing no signs of slowing. 5G will be upon us soon, and the proliferation of internet of things devices and the many SaaS (Something as a service) offerings, means that unless you have specialist knowledge, there are simply too many options and it’s impossible to keep up.

Worse still, the democratisation of technology solutions means that buying the latest and greatest packages no longer guarantees an edge. The playing field has been levelled and today’s best in show is really only enough to help you keep up.

Trusted Advisors

This technological turmoil has the potential to severely impact profitability, something not lost on many in finance, who recognise the negative impact that poor technology choices can have on wage costs, team morale, marketing spends and customer lifetime value, to name but a few.

To counter this, progressive CFOs are now beginning to engage IT specialists and innovators, armed with new techniques and technology to help them improve every aspect of their offering, both internally and externally. An innovation mindset permeates the business, and incremental change through effective technology and process improvement is now the mantra. The whole team is equipped with up to date tools, tailored to their needs. They have the information they need at their fingertips, allowing them to deliver high quality services and exceptional value for their customers.

These are the market leaders and they’re racing to the top.

Service and the bottom line are the winners.

Others CFOs are yet to grasp these opportunities, and they’re finding that their only weapon is price.

They’re joining the race to the bottom, and that’s a race that no one ever wins.


About the Author

Stewart Marshall is an IT innovator, educator and strategist, and the bestselling author of ‘Doing IT for Money: A Business Leader’s Guide to Improving Profit Per Person’.

The founder of MarshallFloyd, he works with CEOs and CFOs of mid-tier businesses, teaching them how to work smarter to energise the team, engage with customers and improve their profit per person.

He’s been solving business problems with technology for nearly 30 years, spending much of his career in R&D in the commercial software industry designing and building high-speed development tools and solutions used by thousands of businesses in Australia and around the world, including Proctor and Gamble, Kellogg’s and Kawasaki.