Understand your CFO: A quick CIO how-to for sleeping with the enemy

How do you become your chief financial officer's best friend? Arun Gupta, the Group CIO of K Raheja Corp. recently shared CFO management mantras.

The biggest professional hazards for any CIO has to do with not seeing eye-to-eye with the man who holds the vault's key, viz. the CFO. Speaking at a recent IT event held in Mumbai, Arun Gupta the Group CIO of K Raheja Corp. shared some valuable lessons on this front.

When it comes to optimal management of CFOs, Gupta first hints towards the impact of recession and how CFOs are shrinking IT budgets. As a result, most Indian CIOs are working on game plans to cut down their IT budgets.

In such a scenario, it's essential to make the CFOs understand how customers evolve and demand for more. Hence it is necessary to find the right response for these needs from an organizational perspective. It is all about touching the right chord where an organization connects with its customers to make a difference. Technology can definitely make a huge difference on this front. So despite shrinking budgets, CIOs should always have the power to convince the board.

2008 was a reality check. Suddenly, IT teams discovered that it's possible to achieve the same results (or even better) despite shrinking budgets.

According to Gupta, 2008 was a reality check. Suddenly, IT teams discovered that it's possible to achieve the same results (or even better) despite shrinking budgets. So how can a CIO sell technology to the board when tight budgets are the norm? "Earlier, I worked for a not so profitable company which was on the path of substantial growth. There was a significant need for new technology investments, and I managed to convince the board through the power of communication. However, such convincing does not happen properly in many organizations," says Gupta.

To be able to convince the board, CIOs should understand whether IT is part of strategy or operations. Gupta points out that IT might be part of strategy at that time, but going forward it will be part of operations. Gupta elaborates this point by giving an example from his organization. "Right now, I have four CIOs reporting to me, and they are responsible for their own IT budgets. IT is divided into operations and projects. We are trying to bring down operational IT budgets and have been successful. All heads remain the same — annual maintenance contracts, network, facility management, data center and people costs. All these aspects are controlled optimally. We do not control the number of projects which can be undertaken, and can vary according to the need," says Gupta. "Renegotiating is something that can help in such a scenario. In the last 12 months, I discovered that you can renegotiate almost everything," Gupta adds.

Summing up, Gupta explained about how a CIO can align IT with business. Alignment of IT with business is all about sustenance. In order to sustain an initiative, CIOs should leverage the business knowledge that they have gained over the years. The CIO should be able to assess and understand how to leverage customers and their behavior. On this front, Gupta and his team try to look at every process, and simplify each aspect keeping in mind the business' needs.

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