[Column] Sumeeth Singh: CFO becomes key to organisational cloud future
The ‘boring’ stereotype of a CFO simply being a sophisticated number cruncher is giving way to one where the role combines the best of technology with a financial know-how to unlock business value in a cloud-driven world. In fact, such has the pervasiveness of technology and the cloud become, that CIOs can no longer lay claim to being the sole custodians of this responsibility. In fact, a partnership between tech and finance is crucial if a company is to stay relevant. Think of it as sneakers meet suits for a brave new world led by innovative companies.
If anything, CFOs must become digital leaders themselves as the finance role is reinvented given how rapidly artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation, and cloud have started to become integrated into every aspect of a business. And when you throw in the potential of real-time data analytics thanks to the high-performance compute capabilities of cloud, CFOs have a wealth of insights available to them to help shape the future business strategy. But if this is to yield maximum benefit for an organisation regardless of its size or industry sector, the partnership between CIO and CFO must be a smooth one.
The cloud is no longer something only the CIO needs to take responsibility for. Modern CFOs fulfil a critical role in helping get organisations cloud-ready. Their understanding of the business, its unique challenges, and where to focus efforts to enhance operations must be combined with a technology know-how and an awareness of where the evolution to the cloud can deliver the best returns. If a CIO is seen as being driven by technology, it is the CFO that needs to take that and inject it with financial analysis and insights to understand where the best return for the investment can benefit the organisation the most.
So, moving beyond someone as just signs the cheques, the modern CFO takes their own technology understanding, combine it with input from the CIO, and then targets the best areas for the highest return on investment. There is no getting around the fact that the CFO will always be guided by the numbers. But what is different for the modern, cloud-ready organisation, is that this role is now influenced by the potential of technology and an increased willingness to explore risks (within reason) that can transform into revenue-generating opportunities.
All about the cloud
As recently as 2018, Deloitte research highlighted how CFOs are sceptical when it comes to spendings based on the promise of savings especially as how it pertains to the transition to the cloud. However, the research at the time did highlight the importance of finance needing a seat at the table when it comes to this kind of technology decision-making.
Fast forward to the present and the disruption caused by events of the past two years have illustrated the need for ‘bean counters’ and ‘tech geeks’ to work together if the organisation had any hope of surviving. Hybrid work, digital transformation, multi-and hybrid clouds, are just some of the ways in which things have evolved since the onset of the pandemic.
Perhaps more critically, companies have finally realised they can no longer afford to keep their data in siloes. If anything, it will be the CFOs and CIOs that become the stewards of that data as they work with the rest of the C-suite to bring improved agility into traditional environments.
While nobody is advocating a rip-and-replace approach to legacy solutions and infrastructure, the CFO is no longer focused on ‘sweating the asset’. Instead, they are looking at how to enhance what has been put in place through cloud-based solutions that can bridge the gap between the old and the new. The proverbial secret sauce to this lies in a cloud adoption/operating model that goes beyond just technology but holistically looks at the business overall. Being willing to look beyond crunching the numbers and apply innovative technology where it makes business sense to do so will result in a new agility being introduced to the business. Taking and improving what works and evolving what is not effective require the best efforts from both the CFO and the CIO.
The key to everything
There is no getting around the fact that the CFO is the critical cog in any successful cloud migration or adoption project. Having the finance department involved in all technology projects is no longer the challenge it was in the past. Far from becoming a bottleneck, finance can be an enabler to drive efficiencies faster. This can only happen if the CFO gets involved on the ground floor and provide the necessary input that can help shape the direction of the cloud project.
And then when discussions turn to licensing consumption costs and the like, the CFO will be better able to make a more informed appraisal than if it is just something that drops in their lap when they need to sign off on a migration.
CFOs, therefore, need to dust off their own sneakers and start wearing them with their suits as they become more technologically informed and partner with CIOs to transform their companies into cloud-forward businesses.