Debating the Dual Title of CIO-CFO

Forward-thinking companies recognize that the role of the CIO is changing. These days, the IT-shop needs to run like a business, and IT leaders need to take an updated, holistic approach so they can make the business management of technology pervasive across the enterprise.

As a result, the lines that separate the CIO and CFO are starting to blur. In some cases, companies have even gone so far as to blend the two roles, creating one executive position with a dual CIO-CFO title. Is this the start of a new trend? As organizations increasingly adopt a technology business management approach, are we going to see the CIO-CFO become more commonplace?

Those are intriguing questions, and I’m noticing that the issue is beginning to gain attention as companies weigh their management options and seek out ways to control costs and optimize performance.

If you’re considering the CIO-CFO role, be sure to check out Mary Pratt’s excellent overview, “When the CIO is also the CFO,” recently published at Computerworld. In addition to showcasing real-world examples of executives who are currently holding the dual position, Mary also provides an excellent summary of the benefits and drawbacks of a CIO-CFO.

On the “pro” side of the argument, the dual position offers an integrated approach reinforced with better insight and understanding about your company’s current and future economic situation. The list on the “con” side includes: time constraints, inexperience/lack of expertise and potential loss of opportunities at the bleeding edge of IT (or finance, for that matter).

At Apptio, we are noticing that customers are trying on new roles and reporting structures as they work to update their IT departments to meet today’s business demands (for example, the “VP of IT Finance” seems to be gaining in popularity -- even more so than the CIO-CFO).

But as I see it, blending the roles of CFO and CIO goes one step too far. Not only are there the disadvantages listed above; but a fully integrated CIO-CFO position also raises concerns regarding governance, compliance and risk mitigation.  Today’s IT responsibilities are expanding, and rather than add enterprise-wide finance management to this already mission-critical to-do list, I would like to see CIOs more empowered with Technology Business Management (TBM) skills. By growing new muscle in this way, CIOs can maintain focus on quality IT, even as they measure, manage and communicate its true cost and value.