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Changing roles inside the C-suite

Thornton May | May 8, 2015
If we want to get clues about the future of the CIO, it is incumbent upon us to be aware of the changing roles of the CEO, the CMO and the CFO.

CMOs have always been in danger of self-limiting by focusing too narrowly on marketing and promotion. The danger of that is more acute than ever. Some career watchers advocate that today's CMOs must own the entire customer experience and represent the customer's perspective in corporate strategy. But in 2015, only 22% of CMOs focus on customer retention as a top priority, according to Cliff Condon of Forrester. If CMOs continue to underperform in this area, CIOs should be prepared to step into the breach.

The CFO and the power of no

Believe it not, the CFO role is not ancient. Indeed, fewer than 10% of the major companies in the U.S. had CFOs before 1978 -- compared to 80% or more each year after 2000. At its inception, the CFO job was pretty straightforward: to ensure the integrity and control of financial information, to interface with capital markets, and to measure and report business results.

Today, the CFO has to be a catalyst for change, helping companies focus on the capabilities that drive value. "It's more of a leadership role," says Philip Rewcastle, CFO of the Consumer Lending Group at Wells Fargo, "versus the support role it was 10 years ago."

Some things don't change. Many think the CFO's most powerful weapon is the word "no." A joke told around Mahogany Row: How do you know your CFO is becoming more tolerant? He lets Marketing present its entire budget before saying no.

This is not totally fair. It is essential that someone be in a position to say no to the many proposals of marginal benefit so that the few of real promise have the resources needed to thrive. Where CFOs are evolving, they are empowering and educating others in the organization about the power of no, so that many people are able to ask the right questions and provide the right insights that lead to an understanding of when to say no and when to say yes.

As these roles continue to change, it will affect how the CEO, the CMO and the CFO interact and coexist with the CIO. For that reason, we need to be paying attention.


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