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Talk like a CFO and give your CIO career a boost

Every C-position has its own argot, its own turn of phrase. CEOs are addicted to sports analogies and fighting words. A CIO career requires constant tactical maneuvers, as the CEO might put it, against the three-letter acronyms that drench IT speech and dampen relations with the business.

I thought you might enjoy hearing some of the verbal tics of the CFOs I heard speak at a recent summit of CFOs in Boston. You might be surprised at how alike you sound on a few topics.

In any case, next time you sit down to talk turkey (Happy Thanksgiving!) with your CFO, sprinkling on a few familiar phrases can’t hurt your CIO career.

Money words

Runway room, as in: “Some stimulus to the business sector to really start growing jobs and get this economy to turn is really important. That and runway room. Without some runway room, so you can take advantage of the stimulus, you are not really stimulating anything.”

Growth, as in: “We are very much focused on growth.”

“We have always been focused on growth.”

“We try to be entrepreneurial and focus on profitable growth.”

Resource allocation, as in: “One of the most important things a CFO does is resource allocation. Not all investments are created equal.”

“We are much more disciplined about resource allocation.”

Execution, as in: “Execution cures all ills.”

“You can’t worry about the swings; you have to focus on execution.”

Quarter to quarter, as in: “If businesses fall into the trap of being focused quarter to quarter, it is because they have allowed that to happen.”

A penny of EPS (earnings per share), as in: “We don’t think a penny of EPS really matters one way or another if we are investing those dollars with a high ROI.*”

The reality for us…, as in: “The reality for us is that there are a lot of other places in the world that are more investment friendly.”

At the end of the day, as in: “At the end of the day, in business, you make decisions based on confidence.”

*ROI: This is a term your CFO can’t get enough of.

If you have any others, please let me know. I’m making a dictionary.

For more tips on how to talk to your CFO, check out, “Build a strong CIO-CFO alliance in 2011, or put IT strategy at risk.”

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This common bit of conventional wisdom is often suggested by well-intentioned supposed gurus who in fact are likely leading us astray with actually unwise advice. Nothing is less persuasive than trying to look smart by using terminology one does not really understand. A clear indicator of not understanding is thinking these are merely hollow buzzwords. The key to meaningful acceptance by CFOs (or others similarly placed) is understanding the concepts their language deals with so you can talk intelligently about providing value with regard to the things that are truly important to them. Anything short of that is seen through immediately as arrogant ignorance.