Vital Allies: CFOs and Tech Chiefs Form a Bond to Scope Out Customer Needs

TradeCard's finance chief Steve Ford and CTO Nestor Zwyhun represent a new breed of C-suiters, dedicated to bridging the finance-tech gap at the software-as-a-service firm.

By Roy Harris

[Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of CFOworld articles that will run from time to time, discussing the ever-closer relationship between top executives in finance and technology.]

At technology services provider TradeCard, chief financial officer Steve Ford and chief technology officer Nestor Zwyhun often find themselves putting their heads together -- to help them understand the minds of the CFOs and CTOs of the companies that are TradeCard’s customers.

That’s because New York-based TradeCard’s software-as-a-service product -– a hosted platform for everything from sourcing, logistics, and supply chain finance -– is heavily used in its customers’ finance and technology departments, among others. Thus, it helps bring together their finance and technology leaders, as well.

“In a sense,” says Ford of TradeCard’s relationship with its customers, “we’re living the service we’re selling.”

An Ever-Stronger Alliance

For George Westerman, a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management and coauthor of The Real Business of IT: How CIOs Create and Communicate Value, what's really turning CFOs and technology chiefs into corporate partners is the drive for transparency, something that IT is enabling now as never before. "What we've found in our research is that the number one way to improve operations is to create transparency about performance," he says. More than any other executives, "CFOs understand transparency and the discipline that can grow from it."

At companies that are relying more heavily on cloud-based services, the strong alliance between the CFO and top tech officials, whatever their titles, has become particularly vital to corporate success. Nearly always, for example, the heads of the two departments are finding they must work in concert on issues related to the company’s enterprise resource planning system, along with other IT systems.

That’s certainly true of Ford and Zwyhun -- as well as for the many corporate finance and tech leadership “pairs” that have been formed at the companies that subscribe to TradeCard’s SaaS product.

Ron Gill, CFO of NetSuite, provider of TradeCard’s own ERP, says that Ford and Zwyhun “are both key points of contact on the account, and collaborate significantly when it comes to their relationship with us.”

But it’s only the start of the work they do together, much of it involved with understanding the needs of their SaaS offering's corporate users as they too pursue operational transparency together. Indeed, the two men suggest that these days a close finance-tech relationship is essential in preventing dysfunction in numerous areas within companies, which increasingly are tied together by a single data system.

‘Security Through Obscurity’ No More

Take the area of data security, a quality that TradeCard’s SaaS product seeks to deliver – and certainly is an area of serious concern for both tech and finance.