Removing the silos in the C-suite

By: Daniel Newman

Photo Credit: noracuellar98 Flickr via Compfight cc

Silos—they’re the cockroaches of legacy organizations and pre-digital business mindset. Siloed departments can be an impediment to efficiency, culture, and even a company’s overall mission, especially in the high-speed digital age. But while many of us have embraced the concept of trying to break down those silos in our companies, we haven’t quite figured out how to break them down in the C-suite, a place where personality, ego, power, and motivation can often take center stage.

Today, it’s more important than ever for leaders in the C-suite to break down the boundaries around their own positions and learn more about those around them. That’s especially true for CIOs and CFOs, who would appear—at least traditionally—to be at motivational odds when it comes to investing in digital development.

If you believe stereotypes, the CFO is set on staying in the black and holding tight to the bottom line, a mindset that doesn’t work well for CIOs needing to upgrade, innovate, and improve efficiency through the use—and purchase—of new technology. Still, assuming the CFO and CIO must remain at odds through your company’s digital transformation would be short-sighted. Now more than ever, modern executives need to move past their own agendas and focus on clearly defined business and technology goals.

The following are a few ways CFOs and CIOs need to collaborate to make sure their companies do not get left behind in the digital age.

Start with the same goals
“Buying cool tech” and “saving more money” aren’t shared goals. Every tech purchase—and every financial decision—must tie back to a business goal that has already been established by the entire C-Suite, including the CEO, and been supported by the entire company. In that sense, companies need to work on creating a culture where everyone is rowing in the same direction, and where business goals are everyone’s business—no matter what department they are in.

Speak the same language
Both CIOs and CFOs have a specific vernacular—one most other people do not understand. Rather than impressing one another with big words that mean little, focus instead on speaking the same mission-focused language, including the goals outlined above. CIOs can help the CFO understand the business value—such as cost savings, energy savings, improved efficiencies, etc.—of a technology investment. And the CFO can help the CIO with the overall financial implications of major tech spending, and the return they’ll need to show to be fruitful for the entire company and its customer-base.

Get to know one another
Strangers rarely mesh well together. CIOs and CFOs should spend time together, getting to know one another’s strengths, and how to best utilize them. A CFO’s business background can shed light on the importance of value creation in tech investment, and a CIO’s tech background can help the CFO understand ways tech can be used to save money, make money, and everything in between.

Focus on the big picture
It can be easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day issues of one’s central job duties. The CIO and CFO would do well to step back and focus on big-picture objectives, and how the right investments will help support them. Spending on the right tech now could pay dividends in five to 10 years—and both the CIO and CFO must work together to define what the “right” tech will be. Research from professors at Wharton showed investment in data analytics helped achieve process improvements, but did little in terms of innovation, for instance. If a company has made innovation a big-picture goal, analytics investments may not be the way to go.

Both the CIO and CFO play an integral role in the healthy growth of an organization. Technology can help make companies more efficient and productive—can produce more accurate numbers—can save in energy costs—and can even create new business and product potential. But there is no replacing due diligence when it comes to making an investment—especially when it is done as a team, fully invested in a company’s long-term, wins.

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About The Author

Daniel Newman

Founder and President, Broadsuite, Inc.

After 12 years of running technology companies including a CEO appointment at the age of 28, I traded the corner office for a chance to drive the discussion on how the digital economy is going to forever change the way business is done. I'm an MBA, adjunct business professor and 4x author of best-selling business... Read more