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Do you need to hire a ‘progressive CIO’?

September 15, 2021, 10:33 AM UTC

Good morning,

“I think the CFO-CIO relationship is a great relationship. I’m not a technocrat. I’m just a businessperson,” Harmit Singh, EVP and CFO at Levi Strauss & Co., once said at Fortune’s Emerging CFO event in June. 

Many finance chiefs share Singh’s sentiment about the partnership between the C-suite leaders. A More Effective CIO-CFO Partnership, a joint global survey released on September 14 by Workday, Inc., and Deloitte Global, explores how digital transformation has played a major role in this relationship. In a survey of more than 600 executives worldwide, 70% of CIOs said they’ve accelerated their finance transformation strategies by at least a year. This acceleration is particularly experienced by “progressive CIOs,” representing just 8% of the total sample. They take a “specific approach to enterprise finance transformation” and have a different strategy mindset than their peers, according to the report. 

Functioning as a progressive CIO means being “flexible, adaptive, and understanding how important meaningful technology decisions are to the business,” Sheri Rhodes, CIO at Workday, told me. “I find it interesting that progressive CIOs are taking an approach that can be adopted by any tech leader because it starts with a mindset, and it’s a focused set of priorities.” The progressive CIO is really “looking at adding value continuously,” Rhodes says. 

As a result, progressive CIOs have built strategic alliances across their organizations, the report found. About 90% said that their IT departments have more integration into other areas of the business, compared to 12 months ago. These tech leaders also reported increased performance across a number of key areas compared to their peers, the report found. For example, in regard to cybersecurity, 81% of progressive CIOs said performance at their company has increased or significantly increased, compared to 61% of all CIOs surveyed. And when it comes to employee satisfaction, 85% of progressive CIOs said performance is increasing compared to 58% of all CIOs.

Courtesy of Workday and Deloitte Global

The report also found that progressive CIOs are highly collaborative when it comes to the finance function. At Workday, there are shared objectives between Rhodes’ IT organization and finance, led by President and CFO Robynne Sisco, that are reviewed quarterly, she says. “When we make technology decisions, we first need to look at them as business decisions and business problems we’re solving for,” Rhodes explains. “I really think that’s why Robynne and I so tightly work together.”

Progressive CIOs understand that misalignment between IT and the finance department can compromise financial goals. About 83% agreed that “we will miss our growth targets unless the IT and finance functions work more closely,” according to the report. In comparison, 67% of the total sample said the same. “I think progressive CIOs are really looking at adding value continuously,” Rhodes says. “They’re progressive by making sure that we have an agile architecture that can make changes quickly. I’m fortunate to have most of my core systems in the cloud.” Amid the pandemic, “closing our quarter virtually is a perfect example,” she says. 

Progressive CIOs agreed that “agile, incremental technology transformation” is critical for their organization’s success in a post-COVID recovery phase, according to the report. “A cloud-centric foundation is so important to building that agility long term, but it’s ongoing,” Rhodes says. 

She suggested three ways CFOs can empower tech leaders to reach the progressive CIO level. “One way is sponsoring the CIO to really be that digital orchestrator and drive digital change,” she says. “The second way is collaborating on modernizing and automating finance operations. We’re constantly rethinking the balance of the priorities and how we spend across the portfolio. It’s part of our ongoing discipline.”

The third piece of advice? “Really being united on the front of leading with data,” Rhodes says. 


See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada
sheryl.estrada@fortune.com

Big deal

ManpowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey of more than 6,000 U.S. employers, released on September 14, found 59% plan on hiring between October and December. The extensive report also found that U.S. employers are relying on financial incentives to fill talent shortages—42% compared to a 31% global average. "This is a historic Q4 report as American employers seek to hire to meet a level of demand we haven't seen in decades that we anticipate will continue into 2022," Becky Frankiewicz, president, ManpowerGroup North America, said in a statement.

Courtesy of ManpowerGroup

Going deeper

A Gartner Inc. report published on September 14 outlines the most sought-after skills in the finance and accounting function in the past year. The top 10 skills: accounting experience; analytical thinking; change implementation; automation implementation; KPI monitoring; experience with business analytics; experience in a business process outsourcing environment; knowledge of generally accepted accounting principles; continuous improvement; and experience working with enterprise resource planning tools. The data is based on a Gartner TalentNeuron analysis of job postings in the finance and accounting between July 2020 and July 2021.

Leaderboard

Denis P. Coleman III was named CFO at The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., effective January 1, 2022. Stephen M. Scherr, who served as CFO for the last three years, has decided to retire from the firm. Scherr's career at Goldman Sachs spanned three decades. He will remain CFO until the end of the year. Coleman will serve as deputy CFO, effective immediately. He has served as co-head of the Global Financing Group in the Investment Banking Division since 2018. Coleman joined Goldman Sachs in 1996 as an analyst in the Bank Loan Group.

Patrick Fabbio was named CFO at Rafael Holdings, Inc., a pharmaceutical holdings company. Prior to joining Rafael Holdings, Fabbio was CFO at WindMIL Therapeutics Inc. His other financial positions include CFO at Progenics Pharmaceuticals, Inc., electroCore Medical, LLC; VP of finance at NPS Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; VP of finance at Innovation and Growth at Catalent Pharma Solutions Inc.; and CFO at Ikano Therapeutics.

Overheard

"It was a sucker punch."

—Richard Hunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association, on the summer surge of the COVID-19 Delta variant shaking consumer and affecting small businesses, as told to Yahoo Finance.

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