Survey Shows Tensions Between CFOs and CIOs

Fewer than a third of finance chiefs are deeply aligned with their IT leaders, whom CFOs see as growing less able to track the impact of new techno...
David McCannJuly 23, 2019

Fewer CFOs are aligned with their companies’ chief information officers than are any of the other key C-suite members, according to a new study.

Just 30% of respondents to a survey of 555 senior executives said their company’s finance chief is “deeply aligned” with its CIO.

By comparison, 56% of CEOs were said to be deeply aligned with their CIOs. Among chief operating officers and chief marketing officers, the corresponding results were 48% and 38%, respectively.

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The survey was conducted by Apptio, a maker of cloud business management software. Approximately half of the respondents occupied C-level roles, and the rest were direct reports to those top executives. The participants were from 12 countries (Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the U.K., and the United States) and nine industry sectors.

The lack of alignment is creating tension between finance and IT, according to Apptio. About half (47%) of those surveyed said digital transformation has worsened existing strategic differences between the two functions.

“Unsurprisingly,” the survey report says, the strongest differences of opinion between CIOs and CFOs are related to new products and services, allocation of IT investment in new technologies, and accountability for technology investment decisions.

A third of surveyed finance leaders say there’s a lack of consensus among C-suite members about how to measure the impact of new technologies, according to the report. A similar proportion say it’s becoming harder for the IT function to track the impact of new technologies across the business.

“That makes it difficult for the technology function to make its case to finance leaders and the board,” says Apptio, which notes that “unlike a financial portfolio, quantifying the value of an IT portfolio is not straightforward.”

“Many digital investments have such profound underlying or inherent uncertainties that trying to make detailed calculations of the ROI of individual cases would basically be futile,” Frederik Lannerberth, CFO of the IT group at Denmark’s Danske Bank, told Apptio.

“Instead,” he added, “we allocate investment to broad themes. For example, we may allocate to end-to-end process automation, where it is actually possible to make vary accurate business cases.”