The accidental CFIO and how to eliminate him

Recently I met with a couple of IT company executives whose target clients happen to include medium-sized enterprises. I mentioned that they must be talking to a lot of CFIOs, but all I got back were two blank stares.

It is a relatively uncommon title, but in a company with less than 250 employees, the potential for finding someone filling this position is huge. In this range, a growing company that first brings on a controller will eventually recognize the need for a CFO. Somewhere along the road to advancement and growth, it often happens that the controller is the first to take responsibility for information technology.

It almost makes sense—I know a lot of finance people who like to dabble in IT. Some of them even have “chore” expertise—they’re good at setting up email accounts, changing passwords and installing software. So when someone really needs to be responsible for technology, it gets lumped in with accounting by default. There you have it—your chief financial and information officer.

Sneaks right up on you.

If you have a healthy, thriving business, you probably have a really smart finance guy. Maybe it’s just a matter of time before he transitions into your CFIO because someone smart needs to manage not only accounting, but also technology. If that’s the case, then it’s also just a matter of time before your CFIO can no longer meet all of the demands both positions require of him.

That’s a risky situation. The “I” in your exec’s title demands attention from a strategic point of view. Plus, your CFIO doesn’t have IT support staff to delegate those never-ending technology chores. No one’s happy in this scenario—your finance guy will be distracted from what drives him, and you won’t be getting what you need on the accounting or IT side.

Be wary of the CFIO position. It can give you a false sense that you’ve got both areas covered when in fact you’re headed down a dangerous path. Keep your finance guy focused on the numbers. Call in an IT services consultant to help assess your needs and create a plan to manage technology from a strategic point of view.

Just as you do with accounting, you’ll be moving toward managing technology in a way that supports your company’s goals.

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