New KPIs are ‘creating tensions in the C-suite,’ says an MIT researcher

Modern chic business people working in an incredible futuristic & original office space
Klaus Vedfelt—Getty Images

Good morning,

Being an effective CFO includes collaborating with colleagues across the C-suite. But when it comes to building modern KPIs and digital transformation, there’s a need for even more synergy between CFOs and chief marketing officers (CMOs).

Last week, I shared my conversation with Michael Schrage, a research fellow at the MIT Sloan School of Management’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, on KPIs (key performance indicators, which track a company’s performance against a set of targets or goals). Schrage noted that many CFOs are still using KPIs from 30 years ago, like customer acquisition cost and cash flow. Emerging KPIs such as employee experience, customer experience, and customer lifetime value (how much money a customer is expected to spend in your business during their lifetime) reflect modern technology capabilities, he said. I got a lot of feedback about my article on this topic which has sparked a greater discussion.

“These emerging KPIs and all the data that goes along with it is creating tensions in the C-suite,” Schrage told me in a follow-up conversation. “I’ve observed that there’s now a power struggle going on because traditionally, the CFO is the owner of the value metrics.” He poses the question: “Since modern KPIs involve customer experience, who will own the data? The CFO or the chief CMO?” CMOs are usually the owners of the customer experience, Schrage says.

Swimming in the same lane

Cultivating the relationship between the CFO and CMO requires “shifting from siloed, even conflicting swim lanes to building trust between finance and marketing as a ‘power pair,’” Courtney Rose, sector lead at Google, told me.

In June, Rose penned the blog post: “Why a CMO-CFO alliance is the crucial piece of the digital transformation puzzle.” Google, in partnership with Kantar, gauged the thoughts of Fortune 1000 company leaders and marketers across industries about this topic. And the CMO and CFO emerged as critical, according to the findings.

“Understanding your customers and ensuring you have the right data to measure beyond a conversion but rather to lifetime value is incredibly important when thinking about the ‘today’ of your business and the ‘tomorrow” potential,’” Rose says.

Google and Kantar surveyed 500 senior marketers in 2021, along with interviews across the C-Suite. Leaders of digitally advanced companies reported higher levels of collaboration between their finance and marketing teams compared to leaders of digitally emerging companies, according to the findings.

“We’ve found that success metrics that are clearly defined and shared between teams, so not just specific to functions by using marketing metrics only, help create a common language among all business functions,” Rose says. “This enables better communication and collaboration to meet overall business priorities.”

So, how does the CFO-CMO relationship facilitate digital transformation to serve customers? Marketing nurtures “a culture of forward-thinking,” Rose explains. “They can help others rethink the role of marketing as a driver of growth and the voice of the customer, which delivers consistent, scalable solutions for customer experience across all touchpoints.” Marketers must also “manage profit and loss that maps marketing initiatives to measurable business outcomes,” she says.

The research also pointed to the benefits of companies that recruit marketing leaders with financial analysis skills. CMOs who can translate their marketing metrics into business impact are 37% more likely to report revenue growth compared to leaders that just communicate in marketing language, the report found. An example? Linking incremental investment to a certain sales growth percentage year over year.

To help build the relationship between finance and marketing, “CFOs should streamline the growth strategies by combining market growth vectors and consumer demand landscape, as well as encourage innovation and give room to test and fail on smaller scale ideas to prove or disprove a business case,” Rose says.

Meanwhile, “CMOs should bring an outside perspective,” she says. They are expected to help the C-suite “understand what the future will look like and what that means for the business,” which is “based on category, competitor, consumer and cultural trends,” she explains. In addition, CMOs “need to recruit modern marketers with a strategic and analytical mindset and skills to drive long-term cross-functional collaboration,” Rose says. 

What are your thoughts on CFO-CMO collaboration?

See you tomorrow.

Sheryl Estrada

Big deal

The "2022 Anatomy of Work Report," by the collaboration platform Asana, found burnout and imposter syndrome (a sense of self-doubt related to accomplishments) continue to be widespread and key challenges for workers. About 77% of workers in the U.S. have experienced burnout or imposter syndrome, according to the report. Almost one-quarter (24%) of those who have experienced imposter syndrome said that clearer processes would help alleviate its effects. And 25% say mentoring and training could help. But only 18% believe an environment where issues can be discussed openly would help. Asana recommends a "3M Framework" to address burnout. Macro breaks: taking half to a full day off monthly. Meso breaks: take 1-2 hours off weekly. Micro breaks: taking a few minutes to pause work multiply times a day. For the report, Asana analyzed the behaviors and attitudes of 2,006 knowledge workers (those whose job involves handling information) in the U.S. and over 10,000 globally.

Courtesy of Asana

Going deeper

"Finance 2025: Digital transformation in finance," a new report by Deloitte, offers eight predictions about digital technology for CFOs. For example, the first prediction is the "finance factory." "In the years ahead, cloud-based ERP, automation, and cognitive innovation will continue apace, creating opportunities to radically simplify processes and free up people," according to the report. "Adding blockchain to the mix will only accelerate this trend."


Chris DeAlmeida was named CFO at Wrap Technologies, Inc. (Nasdaq: WRAP), a public safety technologies and services company. DeAlmeida replaces Jim Barnes, who is retiring as CFO. DeAlmeida joins Wrap from his current role as CFO at Encore. Earlier in his career, he was the CFO for six years and held such titles as treasurer, and EVP for Orion Group Holdings (NYSE: ORN).

Mehul Joshi was named CFO at Berkeley Lights, Inc. (Nasdaq: BLI), a digital cell biology company, effective immediately. Joshi served in several senior finance and accounting roles at ResMed Incorporated, a digital health and cloud-connected medical device company, including most recently SVP of finance and head of global FP&A. Before ResMed, Joshi served in leadership positions of increasing responsibility at Gilead Sciences.


“I can assure you that nobody at Domino’s is happy with our recent performance.” 

—CEO of Domino’s Russell Weiner said on the pizza company's earnings call last week. Domino’s reported an 11.7% drop in delivery sales in Q2 compared to the previous year, with total global retail sales dropping 3% over that period, mostly due to staffing problems. According to the company, people are still putting in orders for pizza, but there isn’t enough staff to answer the phone, make the pizza, and deliver it, Fortune reported

This is the web version of CFO Daily, a newsletter on the trends and individuals shaping corporate finance. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

Read More

CEO DailyCFO DailyBroadsheetData SheetTerm Sheet