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How does the relationship between the CFO and CIO actually work?

I don’t know many CIOs for whom the company’s CFO does not loom large. People responsible for what is often the business’s single largest capital expense don’t fly under the radar of the CFO, no matter whom they report to. But how does the relationship between CIO and CFO actually work?

When the CFO and the CIO get together, they both bring something to the table, but what is each one’s role in that meeting? How do the goals of the CFO for technology investments differ from those of the CIO? Do they value the value of IT to the business in the same way? And, if they do, does the CFO then loom less large? Who gets the final say on an IT investment? How do they relate?

That’s a mystery and CFO magazine hope to get the bottom of in an upcoming survey of CIOs and CFOs. Feel free to send me questions that might illuminate, preferably with multiple-choice answers.

One thing I already know is that the CIO-CFO relationship tends to be fraught. I was reminded of that at a recent dinner gathering of CIOs. Sparks flew when the reporting question was put to the table. There was some name-calling (eek!). Bean counters. Number crunchers. One MBA’d CIO claimed that most CFOs came up through the accounting ranks and knew less about business goals than CIOs. Glorified accountants! If the ambition is to make IT strategic to the business, CIOs need to answer to the CEO, period: That’s what the table more or less concurred, echoing what’s become the standard view.

The outcry was a nice setup for Faisal Hoque, the speaker that evening, there to talk about his management theories about how to get the business and IT to work together. He spells it out in a new book, The Power of Convergence. (Hint: the CFO can’t be the enemy.) I’m going to read it as soon as my editorial director lets me borrow his copy.

In the meantime, I heard what just may be the most interesting paradigm for the future of IT-business relationships from one of the guests, the CIO of a prominent architectural firm. She’s come to think of IT-business projects as serial movie productions: intense, immense collaborations among IT, the firm and its scores of partners — with the CIO as director! And the CFO’s role? Why, producer, of course. (So, who would be the assistant director?)

I’d like to hear about your relationship with your CFO. You can reach me at

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