IT's Quick Guide to Navigating the CFO's Mind

IT's Quick Guide to Navigating the CFO's Mind

IT has been asked to help vet another new piece of technology. This is an opportunity to move your organization's infrastructure closer to best practices and avoid managing another clumsy application that was purchased without your input.

But how can you make your recommendation carry weight? How can you make sure the solution you've vetted is the one that gets your business? Most importantly, how do you convince the CFO that a cloud-based solution is what the organization needs?

Here's a quick guide on how to approach the CFO and other C-level decision makers. Use this to steer the conversation toward what's right for your organization.

What drives a CFO

The CFO is unlike other C-suites you've dealt with. Their role immerses them in an organization's overall health, so they tend to be cognizant of the daily goings on. Said another way, the CFO wears both binoculars—for "big picture" or long-term projects—and a microscope—for those smaller projects. Regardless of the eyewear they're wearing that day, they're conservative with how money is spent. You need to make a solid business case to be approved.

You may actually have more in common with the CFO than you think. For starters, you're both methodical in how you approach a problem. This means you'll want to focus your efforts on logic. You also both strive for efficiency. IT wants efficiency to save time—the CFO wants efficiency to save dollars.

[TL; DR] The CFO is a rational thinker. Win them over with logic and numbers.

Now that you have a background, you'll be able to make your case stick.

Avoid the soup

Don't fall into the alphabet soup trap of ROIs and TCOs (that's Return on Investment and Total Cost of Operation). Your expertise lies in information technology, that's what you bring to the table. Your CFO will know the existing costs in great detail.

That said, you cannot present a new technology to your CFO without benefits in mind. So keep the conversation at a high level. Think efficiencies and cost savings. You may be dealing with abstract features or it might be too technical to explain the importance of a particular feature.

Focusing on the benefits to a solution is often referred to as the “why" in C-suite circles.

For example, instead of highlighting the five nines of solution "Z", say that its guaranteed up-time assures that finance will never need to reach out to IT when a problem arises in the middle of the night.

That's how you begin to sell your solution: frame it through benefits. Make sure it answers, “What's in it for me?" or “Why should I care?"

[TL; DR] Highlight the benefits of a cloud-based solution and avoid spending too much time on every little feature detail.

Stack the deck

Objectivity doesn't come to mind when thinking about stacking the deck. But when vetting a solution for your organization, objectivity is paramount. In this case, your objectively-preferred solution comes out on top, while others won't.

Here's how. I liken stacking the deck to Cliff Notes. The facts you've compiled will make the CFO's decision an obvious one.

Plus, now's the time to shine a light on lacking technology in the organization. It gives you the opportunity to make the case for cloud interconnectivity. Show how bridging data silos empowers different outlooks and make the case for how it provides intelligence to steer a company into new markets.

Focus on the benefits of the capabilities of your preferred solution without being too negative about other vendors. Again, back it up with logic.

You can also stack the deck to get more out of what you already have. Now's the time to leverage additional services to make up for lacking capabilities in other products.

For example, does your company's CRM leave something to be desired? You may be able to leverage a SaaS integration platform while recommending your original solution. You'll finally be able to unlock and share actionable data across several departments.

Bonus points: Showing that costs can be split across departments could be the best hand to play. Present this by saying, "Solution Z's robust APIs allows us to integrate sales and…"

[TL; DR] Present two to three different vendors with the pros and cons to each. Stick to the facts and let the CFO draw his or her own conclusion. Don't be surprised when they ask you for your number one choice.

An ounce of prevention

Is presenting your agenda this way making you squeamish? Wish your recommendation would just carry the weight of authority? The easiest way to avoid framing your recommendations this way is not to do so in the first place.

This requires that you forge a better relationship with the CFO. Have monthly lunches to discuss your action items. Share your thought process and ask for feedback. How can your staff contribute to the big picture goals of the company?

Knowing the direction of the company and being able to contribute at a higher level is the best medicine. This kinship can transform your relationship from last-minute influencer to relied-upon advisor.

It is after all, the logical solution.

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