C-Level Executives Have Their Heads in the Cloud: Or At Least They Should

In a recent article by Tom Axbey at ChiefExecutive.net, Axbey discusses the roles of C-level managers as they pertain to cloud computing. With the ever-changing digital landscape, CEO’s and CFO’s are being challenged to adapt, implement, manage and massage their digital strategies through cross-departmental collaboration. These kinds of integrations help to advance truly strategic organizations. As technologies mature we find the roles and functions of executives becoming more dependent on one another. Business leader, Board Director and CEO Advisor, Rob Ferguson notes,

I have been working with my CEO clients on transforming their CFO roles to be more visionary and strategic rather than fiduciary and control. CFO’s have traditionally been focused on making the numbers work, today they have to also make certain the people, structure, systems and processes work. This article focuses on how that is true today for organizations with technology-driven business models, the CEO and CTO are often in lockstep on cloud strategy.

While we might expect for Chief officers (CTO, CIO, CEO) to be aligned together to govern their business, we are finding this is more evident in the fast-paced world of technology. With the advances in cloud computing, the CFO’s are playing a more significant role as segregated functions across business channels have become more strategically aligned. What the CFO is realizing is that these kinds of technologies are not only cost saving but transformative, helping to more efficiently bring their businesses into the digital present on into the digital future. An added benefit with cloud technology is increased security which mitigates costly downtime, furthering the financial goals of the CFO. As CFO’s take a more holistic approach to cloud-based infrastructure, they are garnering the benefits of improved business efficiency which also impacts the bottom line with increased profitability. Axby notes,

Cloud can and should be viewed through many lenses. Not only is cloud the ultimate innovation driver, but it plays a critical role in governance and profitability improvement. As part of a company’s broader digital transformation strategy, cloud must not only be viewed from a cost management point of view, but also as a value-add investment.

In light of all of this, CFO’s are becoming more engaged with their organizations, even serving as the lead or at the very least the corporate liaison between cloud vendors and service providers. With astute teams handling the forensics of finance now engaging in cloud computing, the results are nothing short of brilliant. Specialized teams are now adept at leading, forecasting, and planning new implementations to bring further profitability to the companies they serve. According to Axby there are several ways that CFO’s can engage and become what Axby terms, “Cloud Evangelists”:

• Ask questions: No one expects a CFO to automatically be a cloud expert. It’s important to get insight from others to better understand the cloud—and advocate for it.

•  Collaborate with interdepartmental leaders: Cloud permeates many departments, not just finance. CFOs should leverage and share best practices to the benefit of all.

•  Invest in technology training: To embrace the cloud, employees should have a solid grasp of the technology and its various elements and implementations. Training is a good first step.

•  Monitor technology investments and continue to optimize: Cloud migration and optimization is not a static solution but a journey that needs to be continually monitored and updated.

•  Cultivate a culture of cloud within your team: If a CFO reflects a passion for cloud, their team members will echo this. Cloud evangelism must take a top-down approach.

As is the case with CEOs, CFOs can be instrumental in facilitating a top-down approach to cloud migration and optimization, communicating the narrative around competitive landscape, cost control and value in driving the shift to the cloud.

In the final analysis, we find that CFO’s along with their executive management teams can be better equipped to meet the rising expectations of being relevant in a rapidly expanding technological world by understanding the need for cloud-based implementations. As technologies evolve, CFO’s are increasingly becoming more instrumental in the use and application of technological advances both in the realm of finance and operations as it pertains to improving profitability.