CIOs (Should) Rule

Chief financial officers have too much corporate power. CIOs have too little. This is especially true among global organizations, where a good CIO is a far better asset than a good CFO.

There. I've said it, and I feel better. You should start thinking it too, if not saying it aloud.

Far too often, CIOs, apparently afflicted with a surplus of humility, strive merely to be on par with CFOs. We see stories, such as the one that came out of last year's Computerworld Premier 100 IT Leaders conference, quoting CIOs in different industries arguing that companies should put their CIOs on the same level as their CFOs (see "IT Leaders See Need to Be on Par With CFOs," March 14, 2005). And in their article "Decoding the CIO-CFO Relationship," Deloitte Consulting's Ann Senn and Kenneth Parrillo seem convinced that the perceived tighter collaboration between the two executive levels should be seen as progress for the CIO. And not without reason, if results from Optimize magazine's annual survey are true. Last year's poll showed a steady climb in the number of top IT executives reporting to the CFO -- up from 8% in 2003 to 22% in 2005. You almost get the idea that a CIO should be happy if the CFO remembers his name.

Frankly, CEOs of global businesses who put their CFOs over their CIOs are hurting their companies and often themselves. And I, for one, would think twice before investing in companies run by such short-sighted management.

One Strategist, One Implementer

My proposition is simple: The value of a CIO expands exponentially as an organization grows operations overseas. On the other hand, CFOs lose their value as a company goes international.

Generally speaking, a CFO's most prized trait is his ability to count money in ways that are most favorable for a business (and hopefully legal, too). That means CFOs are well versed in tax-avoidance strategies, revenue-recognition policies, optimized audit procedures, balance sheet preparation, cash management and other skills that are ideal for controlling costs and squeezing profits from revenue. Without skills like those, a CFO might as well be just another CPA.

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