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IT Meets Finance: How CFOs Drive Digital Success

Chief financial officers now play a key role in guiding organizations through digital transformation so they can survive the current climate and come out stronger on the other side.

In 2020, for the first time in history, we saw digital transformation spending accelerate despite GDP declining globally. Digital transformation, cloud computing, and business model innovation have all intersected to cause a paradigm shift. Businesses are changing the way they operate.

To ensure success, a trend is emerging with CFOs becoming drivers of digital transformation. After all, the CFO's primary job is holding the organization accountable -- and that accountability has never been more important than it is right now. By driving transformation initiatives in tandem with the CFO, chief information officers and other IT leaders can ensure they’re deploying solutions that can break down departmental silos and solve problems across the business.

Here are three ways the CFO can translate transformation into success within organizations:

1. CFOs Need to Know Tech

CFOs are no longer bean counters with a fierce grip on the checkbook. Being a CFO today is about leadership -- understanding the growth levers that drive the business and the investments needed to get there. Right now, that growth driver is digital transformation.

CFOs now must have a strong understanding of technology. CFOs are data-driven and are using predictive analytics and machine learning to ensure initiatives are driving real impact. CFOs should ask for data that indicates transformation efforts are maximizing ROI and driving tangible value across the business. They're looking to quantify the success of their digital transformation investments. 

Don't delegate down all the technology work. Spend some time learning it. Investing in your own learning will have enormous payoff.

2. CFO-CIO Collaboration Is Key

In many ways, COVID-19 has evolved the CFO-CIO relationship. CFOs used to be viewed as an adversary that guarded purse strings. CIOs were viewed as advocates of implementing new technologies without concern for cost or ROI. But this is an outdated, ineffective way of thinking.

Having CIO-CFO connective tissue helps organizations see around the curve to predict issues. It drives value across silos and pushes teams toward collaborative transformations, which will always lead to better outcomes. I often partner with ServiceNow CIO Chris Bedi on digital transformation projects. He and I are transparent with regards to cost, projected ROI, and challenges. Chris and I don’t always agree, but there are healthy debates and transparency between our two teams.

Engage early. By aligning finance and IT at the start, organizations can maximize business value, sharpen their competitive edge, and identify new opportunities to transform business functions across the company.

3. Finance Enables Innovation

CFOs are central to strategic decisions about transformation. They are focused on helping their companies not only survive the current climate but also come out stronger on the other side.

While it can be hard for organizations to overhaul in the midst of uncertainty, it's the CFO's job to really advocate for and invest in projects that will push the business forward. CFOs can ensure investments impact every aspect of the business and drive more engagement and commitment from business leaders, ultimately ensuring better success.

Push your company to think differently and be more innovative. Then do everything in your power to ensure teams have the freedom (and financial protection) to be innovative and creative.

The most successful companies of tomorrow will be the ones that prioritize digital transformation today. How do you transform your company to improve employee engagement? How do you drive fierce customer loyalty? How do you scale better and smarter? All those things require innovation. And those are the things that will lead to higher profitability. This is mission-critical stuff.

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At ServiceNow, Gina Mastantuono is developing and leading world-class teams focused on driving customer success. As chief financial officer, her global organization spans all aspects of Finance, including Accounting, Risk & Compliance, Payroll, Tax, Investor Relations & Treasury, Real Estate & Workplace Services, and more. Gina is a member of ServiceNow’s executive leadership team and is committed to helping ServiceNow continue to deliver incredible value to customers, employees, and shareholders.