September 30, 2021

A Partnership Between CFOs & CIOs Is Essential for Digital Transformation Success

3-minute read

The meaning of digital transformation is, at a high level, simple and direct. CIO Magazine calls it  “a catchall term for describing the implementation of new technologies, talent, and processes to improve business operations and satisfy customers.”

But dig down a bit and you’ll find that digital transformation can mean different things to different companies, depending on their industry, their size, and their attitude toward technology enablement.

Regardless of the differences, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: success in digital transformation most likely will require the CFO and CIO and their organizations to partner more closely than ever before.

Lisa Schreiber, BlackLine’s chief customer officer and a former industry CIO, explains, “It’s no secret that technology is critically important to business success. What companies are finding out too, is that the more the CFO and CIO can maximize the value of their respective domains—and their technologies—the more likely they can help their organizations extend their competitive advantage.”

For accounting technology to work at its maximum efficiency, Schreiber says, the CFO needs to get data feeds from ERPs and other systems in the CIO’s domain. The better the two groups—Finance/Accounting and IT—can work together to ensure secure and anytime access to that data, the faster and more complete the resulting financial analyses will be.

And those financial analyses can, in turn, be greatly helpful to the CIO.

“The CFO can then help the CIO apply more sophisticated financial analysis to any number of new projects,” she says.

“For instance, back in the day, many CIOs were caught trying to piece together best-of-breed systems. They thought they were getting better value than they would by going with a single, all-encompassing vendor. But then they found themselves buried by the added costs of having to make all those systems work together.

“That’s where they could have used some astute financial analysis. And that’s where financial analysis can help today.”

That’s just one example. Today, thanks to digital transformation, CFOs and CIOs are partnering on numerous technology initiatives. The better their groups can communicate, on financial analysis and other matters, the better the result for their companies.

Learning Is Key

Key to a successful CFO-CIO partnership is open mindedness and a willingness to learn from one another, Schreiber says. For instance, the CFO should realize that she can benefit from learning how digital transformation is more than just automating finance and accounting systems. And the CIO can benefit from the CFO’s typically keen understanding of how to build the business case for more widespread technology.

“The key is being open to learning,” says Schreiber. “That’s the best way to succeed when you go outside your comfort zone. The more the CFO and CIO can learn from one another, the better the result of their company’s digital transformation initiatives.”

Schreiber applies the same principle to her role as BlackLine’s head of customer success.

“The best way we can help our customers grow and succeed is to listen to them, and then act on what we hear,” she says. “We value all the input we get from our customers, whether they’re accountants, controllers, CFOs, or other users. Then we can turn that information into better products and services in the future.”

Read our latest issue of BlackLine Quarterly for more stories like this that shine a new light on technology, including why cash intelligence and accounting cloud security are vital to the Controller.

BlackLine Quarterly

Digital Transformation