Strength in Numbers and Data

By: Katie Bascuas

Why the relationship between CFOs and CIOs is an important element of strategic success. [Titled "Shared Vision" in the print edition.]

IT and finance are not typically lumped together when talking about association management, but these two areas are critical in helping an organization achieve its business goals. Just as critical is a good relationship between the CFO and CIO.

As one association chief technologist and one chief financial officer explain, a successful partnership between the two requires putting personal goals aside and working toward the ­common good.

CIOs and CFOs provide the foundation that sustains a solid house, says Velma Hart, FASAE, CAE, CFO at the Thurgood ­Marshall ­College Fund.

"When you think about the back office of businesses, a lot of what establishes a solid foundation for operations either relies on money or relies on technology," she says. "So the partnership between those entities just makes sense from a business standpoint."

There's also a mutual dependence, says Mike Guerrieri, CAE, information systems director at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association: "The CIO is spending a lot of money, and the CFO is in need of a lot of technology support, so they're kind of in it together."

Hart says she relies on her CIO for advice and direction in choosing and implementing the latest advances in technology systems and programs.

"I want to make sure that I'm meeting the needs of my members, of my constituent base, or just the public at large," she says. "I'm looking for that kind of guidance and direction and, frankly, forward thinking. I want [the IT team] to be thinking ahead about where we should go and not just maintaining today's applications."

Like any relationship, the CFO-CIO partnership requires mutual understanding, appreciation, and candid communication. An open mind helps too, Guerrieri adds.

"Our best estimates at budget aren't always accurate," he says, "so we come to a point where we can't move forward [on IT initiatives] if we can't get flexibility in terms of budgeting."

A reasonable financial officer will adapt to shifting budget needs. As a previous CFO told Guerrieri: "You have to manage your budget, not manage to the budget."

Ultimately, it's about "moving the organization forward in a way that's responsible both in our use of technology resources and financial resources," Guerrieri says. "When the [CIO and CFO] can be focused on the mission and what you're trying to accomplish—the goals of the organization—there's a synergy that comes from that."

Katie Bascuas is associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email:[email protected]

Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is an associate editor at Associations Now in Washington, DC.