IT Tech News and Information

Why Do IT Departments Report To The CFO

June 4th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CFO IT Reporting

Organizational structure is something that is hotly debated at businesses around the world, but one of the biggest mysteries is where it makes sense to have the technology teams. IT has both a strategic thread as well as a day-to-day operational focus, making it a solid fit for the office of the CEO or the COO — yet IT often lands with the CFO, especially if there isn’t a CIO in existence. Businesses tend to organize around the functional strengths of their leaders and their business operations. If you are researching where IT makes sense in the structure of your business, see why organizations around the world continue to closely align IT with the finance department.

“We’ve Always Done It That Way”

Historically, IT has been aligned with finance due to the original reason technology was introduced to businesses: to aid in digitizing accounting functions. The highly detailed work that is performed by both finance and technology teams worked in lockstep, as finance executives leaned on IT for financial computing initiatives that would help make the organization more efficient and effective in their financial interactions. Over time, the original need for digitizing accounting morphed — yet the reporting structure still made sense. CFOs needed to have a tight handle on the burgeoning budgets that the technology teams needed to support the needs of the business. Many businesses find themselves locked into this aging structure for one of the worst reasons of all: “We’ve always done it this way”.

Aligning Departments Around Business Functions

At first blush, IT may seem to have more in common with operations than with finance. There are plenty of moving parts in both operations and technology, but that is where the parallels break down. Maintaining the daily execution of tasks is quite operational in nature, but the far-reaching strategic nature of IT is where the power truly lies for the organization. Hiding IT within the office of the COO could reduce the overall effectiveness of IT and may also lead to the team being a target when there is a need for budget cuts. Without a strong seat at the table for technology as it relates to the future of the business, both finance and operations Chiefs may reduce spending without seeing the longer-term impact of their decision.

Shifting Business Strategy

As more CEOs consider IT initiatives as strategic imperatives, the structure of organizations will continue to shift. CIOs — although they are “Chiefs” — have not always had a place reporting directly to the CEO of the organization as other chief officers do. Instead, they are relegated to second-string status by reporting to the CFO or COO, especially if there is a perception that the CIO is not comfortable enough working through complex business problems as well as providing technology solutions. The shifting business strategies that are caused by exceptional levels of innovation and competition in terms of technology make it more likely than ever that CIOs will be raised to the level of the CMO and CFO in terms of organizational structure.

There are no perfect or “right” structures for your organization. As technology leaders continue to expand their knowledge outside the scope of the technical realm, they are less likely to be reporting to the CFO and COO and more likely to be able to earn representation at the highest levels of the organization. This evolution of IT may feel uncomfortable for some organizations, but will ultimately help boost the visibility of technology projects that are often core to the success of the business.


CEOs Guide To Corporate Mobile Device Security

June 3rd, 2019 by Julie Lough

Mobile Device Security

One of the major advantages of newer technologies is their ability to connect employees working remotely. Connections to colleagues, data and files help make doing business more productive, effective and accurate, no matter where employees and their teams are.

That’s why more companies are establishing bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies. Such guidelines allow companies to save on the costs of providing employees with their own mobile devices or paying for their maintenance and replacement.

Adopting such policies requires companies to set clear guidelines for the use of such devices and what obligations employers and employees have.

What Are the Advantages to BYOD Policies?

Along with the cost reduction, there are several other advantages for companies that choose to use BYOD rules:

  • Increased employee satisfaction. Employees who can bring their own devices are more satisfied in the workplace, don’t have to manage multiple devices and can use their own device for work-related tasks.
  • More productivity. Employees with access to workplace apps on their own devices can respond faster to inquiries, gain needed information and address issues quickly.
  • Flexibility. Make it easier for employees to work from home, remotely or while traveling with ready access to communication and apps that let them do their work effectively.
  • Reduces uncertainty. For companies that pay for voice and data services for employee devices, switching to a BYOD policy saves not only on contract costs but also on data and voice overage charges.

“Employees who are willing to spend their own money to procure their own devices can be a boom for their bottom line. In some ways, this is a perfect arrangement. Employees get to use their chosen device, which can improve productivity and morale while saving companies money,” notes a recent article.

What Are the Primary Disadvantages to BYOD Policies?

The primary concern for many companies considering adopting a BYOD policy is security. Consider that for every device you add to your network, that’s one more device that has access to sensitive, proprietary or protected information. A company-owned device provides far more control of what websites are accessible, when devices are updated and how usage is monitored. Companies can control what anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-phishing tools are installed and how frequently they’re updated. Control means a greater understanding of what’s protected and how.

Another concern to BYOD workplaces is compatibility and support. Your employees are likely using multiple devices with multiple operating systems and capabilities. Your IT team will likely be responsible for some aspects of device management, including installation and updating of apps, security processes such as VPN and other protections, and ensuring security patches are applied. Having more devices in play means more expertise is required of your IT employees.

When employees leave, there need to be clear procedures and auditing rules about ensuring that all access to company files, apps and data is removed immediately.

Scalability is another concern. As the number of employees grows, with some of them using multiple personal devices, the staff demand for management and updating grows accordingly. Company network infrastructure also needs to be expansive enough to accommodate all the new devices.

For employees, the main concern is privacy. Employees may wonder how much of their personal activity and device usage is accessible to their employers.

Are There Other Options Besides Company-Provided and BYOD?

Some companies choose one of two alternative policies that reduce the risk:

  • COPE. Corporate-Owned, Personally Enabled devices are those employees can use as their own but are purchased by and owned by the company. However, employee privacy concerns can make such an approach unpopular.
  • CYOD. A choose-your-own-device approach requires employees to select from a limited number of devices for use with employer applications and access. While this helps minimize the amount of support required, it may require employees to spend more on new equipment.

How Can Employers Maintain Security with BYOD?

Clear and consistent policies are key to effective BYOD workplaces. Here are a few of the considerations you should use when implementing BYOD policies:

  • Determine what operating systems and devices your company is willing to support
  • Create device enrollment practices, requiring devices to be registered and authenticated before they are connected to your company network
  • Require strong password or passphrase guidelines, including length, complexity, change frequency and failed-attempt blocking
  • Create automatic lockouts on devices after a period of inactivity
  • Require employees to immediately report lost or stolen equipment
  • Mandate that personal devices can be disabled or wiped in the event of a loss or theft
  • Install required anti-virus, anti-malware and anti-spam software on all BYOD smartphones, tablets and laptops
  • Automate regular backups of company applications and data from personal devices
  • Keep devices and applications up to date using automated patching and updating tools
  • Encrypt all BYODs, ideally with full device encryption. If that’s not possible, require all sensitive data to be stored in encrypted folders on the devices
  • Determine if BYOD users will be allowed to print, copy, save or email information pulled from your servers
  • Require employees to sign an agreement stating they understand all the policies, procedures, regulations and consequences for noncompliance
  • Detail the consequences of not adhering to company policies

When companies pay attention to the policies and guidelines necessary to ensure secure and proper use, BYOD policies can be an advantage to employers and employees alike.


A CEOs Guide to Artificial Intelligence

May 31st, 2019 by Julie Lough

CEO Artificial Intelligence

Today’s CEOs are increasingly being asked to lead their business into a data-driven world, but does that mean that immersive courses in understanding the technology are crucial? Not necessarily — in fact, it’s much more important that CEOs understand the potential of the technology and how to drive culture change throughout their organization. While Artificial Intelligence (AI) is truly changing the landscape of business, it’s doing so because fearless leaders are dreaming about the changes and improvements that are now possible through the genius of technology. See how this cultural revolution in the way we work is sweeping through business and leading a fast and furious discourse on how organizations will interact with data and individuals in the future.

The Promise of AI

CEOs have likely seen several generations of “transformative business models”: cloud-based computing being the most recent. As businesses are still reeling from this rapid-fire shift to Software as a Service (SaaS) models, the promise of artificial intelligence has the C-suite scrambling to understand the implications for their business. Scrappy start-ups do as they have always done, harnessing a new technology direction to quickly make changes to their business model as tech is introduced into the marketplace. Larger businesses and enterprises may be slower to act, as they can be weighed down with limited budgets, heavy infrastructure and disparate legacy systems. It takes time to move in a new direction, but the promise of AI is significant enough that business leaders throughout the world are exploring how to deploy data-driven decisioning in their operations, marketing and accounting solutions. From computers that recognize an individual human’s face to predictions of sales based on the weather, AI can be found in any number of practical applications throughout the business world — as evidenced by the 270% growth rate that AI has enjoyed in the past several years according to Gartner research.

Understanding How AI Works

In this season, the hype around AI is beginning to manifest itself in workable business models such as chatbots, next-best actions for customer service and predictive analytics. These systems can sense, analyze and respond to their environments in a way that is both interactive and intelligent. Creating a machine that is able to make better decisions over time based on the validation of its hypotheses requires a great deal of programming and math. However, the beauty of AI is that once the background work is done, humans are able to interact with the systems to continue the cycle of learning. AI systems “see” and “hear” sensory inputs and are able to translate that information, extract value and provide intelligent feedback to the user. Sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) connected devices also serve as input mechanisms, allowing machines to “feel” when something is cold or hot, positive or negative. This level of intuition is what is new to the business horizon, and it provides organizations with an ever-expanding range of possibilities to solve business problems.

3 Levels of AI Comprehension

While AI may have initially brought to mind futuristic robots that have taken over the world, true intuitive thought and “leaps of logic” are still beyond the limits of current AI technology. For example, an AI program can identify the difference between dogs and humans. The same program may be able to recognize how the two relate to each other as owner and pet and make the leap that they were going for a walk because the owner was holding the dog’s leash. However, it would not be able to intuit — or make an educated, quantifiable guess — anything about their relationship to each other in the future. This type of abstraction is still beyond the limits of current AI computing. The three primary levels of AI comprehension can be defined as:

  • Recognition: Identify items in a picture or video
  • Comprehension: Determine how the items relate to each other
  • Abstraction: Evaluate the information and make a prediction about future performance

Each stage in the evolution of AI has taken years, but the advances are coming more quickly all the time as business leaders and technology teams come together to dream and create the interactions of the future.

Bridging the Knowledge Gap

Business people are struggling with an unfathomable knowledge gap between their understanding of business intelligence and AI and the possibilities for the future. Data scientists are swiftly becoming the bridge that helps cross this gap between technology teams and business leaders, providing the insight that can translate business needs into practical applications of AI and machine learning. As CEOs deepen their understanding of data and possibilities for their business, a data scientist or business analyst may provide the necessary cohesion to maintain forward momentum on these highly technical projects.

Creating a Culture of Innovation

Perhaps the most important challenge faced by CEOs when it comes to AI isn’t technical at all — it’s cultural. If the organization is not willing to embrace the future potential of this emerging technology, it’s unlikely that AI-based projects will be successful. There is a fundamental fear within many organizations that AI or machine learning tech will replace individual knowledge workers as the AI can produce similar results in some instances as long as the correct inputs are being provided. A great example is in healthcare, where nurses or intake professionals traditionally gather basic information while assessing patients in an emergency room. AI chatbots can be programmed to not only gather and log this information quickly but also use micro-data to determine the level of distress of the individual — potentially classifying their level of pain for more immediate action by doctors. Minute facial changes, heightened breathing and sweating are all inputs that an AI can process in milliseconds that might be overlooked by a harried charge nurse.

While that scenario sounds as though it could potentially replace a position, what it actually means is that the human nurses are freed of repetitive tasks so they are able to add more value to other interactions. These lower-level engagements with patients are simply a distraction for nurses, taking time away from patient care and their ability to connect on a deeper and more proactive level instead of being stuck in a place of reaction to outside stimulus. CEOs who are able to clearly communicate the value of AI to their organizations in a way that is both non-threatening and that drives excitement within staff are more likely to be able to successfully sustain change initiatives for the future.

Rethinking Traditional Business Models

In a traditional business model, managers, directors and even chief executives are accustomed to making decisions based on incomplete data or inaccurate assumptions. While this often works out, the deluge of data that is now available allows for more informed decisions to be made — as long as business leaders are willing to take the time to ask questions and refine their understanding of business problems. Machines are exceptional at uncovering patterns, and many of these designs can fool people into making certain decisions based on their intuition. With the introduction of AI-driven decisioning, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are unexpected variances in the data that point to inefficiencies, inaccuracies and outright errors. Understanding how to interpret this information can often fall on the shoulders of a data scientist, but helping work through those questions and drill into root causes of issues will be a crucial skill for all business leaders in this brave new world of data.

Getting Started with AI

Whether you have a million ideas you want to vet with your team or are just starting to consider how AI can impact your organization, the time to get started is now. Organizations of all sizes are embracing basic AI — everything from social media chatbots that can help customers place a simple order or learn more about a product to connected systems that predict which products consumers may purchase next based on the buying patterns of others throughout the world. Determining where to begin is challenging, but here are a few basic considerations as you’re prepping for action:

  • Determine the reporting structure for AI, and this could change for every organization depending on the needs of the business. Will AI be mostly used in marketing or communications, operations or as a predictive analytics engine to determine when a potential breach has occurred? Understanding the application of AI technology can help ensure that the project gets the support that it needs to be successful.
  • Will you hire or rent the technical know-how for implementation and ongoing support? Here again, there is no “right” answer, but it requires contemplating the breadth of the engagement and how quickly you want to ramp up for your AI-based project. A similar question is needed to determine whether you will buy a codebase that contains the majority of what you need and customize it, or build your AI applications from scratch.
  • What’s the business case for AI? The most successful organizations are the ones that are able to quantify the value that they expect to gain from AI in terms of time savings, productivity boosts or improved customer engagement rates.
  • Understand (and be able to articulate!) the “Why” of your project. Are you solving a problem, beating a competitor to a goal or simply exploring the potential for the new technology within your business? Being realistic about expectations helps reduce the potential for pushback from non-believers within your organization.

Artificial intelligence has far surpassed the time when it was simply a buzzword that people loved to throw around and is now a thriving part of the business landscape with over 60% of businesses adopting some form of AI in the past year alone. Understanding the potential for disruption in your industry — both positive and negative — and how AI can be leveraged will be crucial skills for successful CEOs both now and in the future. There’s one thing for sure: AI is here to stay. Business leaders can make a decision to avoid moving forward with any AI-driven initiatives, but the cost to the organization may be higher than stakeholders are willing to pay.


How Technology Can Assist CFOs and Their Expanding Job Functions

May 28th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CFO & Technology

CFOs & Technology

The CFO role continues to evolve. CFOs used to be considered fairly powerless scorekeepers or merely chief bean counters, but today the role has taken on more responsibility as well as prominence.

Of course, any CFO will tell you that the old role is not unimportant, and it has not gone away. The expansion of the CFO into strategy, decision-making, and even IT oversight creates a capacity problem. How can the CFO meet all the new responsibilities without neglecting the old? Technology can assist in a number of ways.

Before we dive into how technology can assist CFOs in their expanding job functions, let’s look at what some of those expanding job functions are. Depending on where your organization is in its digital transformation, you may have already taken on some of these. If not, this overview will give you insight into what may be added to your plate in the coming months and years.

New CFO and Finance Responsibilities

The CFO has traditionally focused on finance and accounting, and these responsibilities remain both significant and important. New areas of responsibility are developing, though, including these.

Technology

The CFO role has an increasing responsibility for overseeing technology decisions and spending, along with the CIO. The entirety of the business is dependent on technology, and good choices in this area lead to dynamic transformation. Bad choices can have catastrophic results.

Future Focus

CFO and finance responsibilities are evolving from sole focus on the past (compliance and reporting) to include a future focus. CFOs are partnering with managers around the company to improve operations, and they often work with the CEO and the board to help plan company strategy.

Financial data and analytics have helped in this aspect of transformation. Another team may be responsible for analytics, but when it comes to the financial aspect of analysis, the CFO and finance team are an essential part.

Partnering with CEO

Today, CFOs partner with CEOs to develop strategy more frequently than they did in years past. While the roles remain distinct, the line is more blurry than it used to be, and the level of partnership and collaboration is much greater.

Partnering with Division Leaders

It’s more frequent than it’s ever been for the CFO to partner with division leaders or line-of-business leaders. These leaders necessarily have other focuses than finance, and they may need or seek guidance from the CFO. This guidance is sometimes finance-related and other times more generally related to business vision. The CFO also plays a role in teaching division leaders to accept financial guidance from the finance group.

How Technology Can Assist Today’s CFOs

Savvy CFOs will leverage technology to assist them in their expanding capacities. Here are a few technologies empowering CFOs and finance teams.

Big Data and Analytics

Data is more powerful than it’s ever been, and CFOs will benefit from technology solutions in this area. Powerful customer data can drive major insights into financial trends as well as business trends. Use analytics to make better-informed predictions on the future of sales. You can often get a better picture of what the customer wants by analytics than you can by traditional means like focus groups or customer surveys. These are powerful tools that can solve many problems and speed up many tasks for the CFO and the finance team.

Embrace the Cloud

Cloud-based apps can lower IT infrastructure spending as well as the need for maintenance. Many if not all the major IT applications needed by the finance team are available in cloud format, including ERP and CRM systems as well as planning and reporting systems.

Using cloud-based applications and systems allows your company to expand without having to consider infrastructure improvement. With the cloud, you’ve outsourced the infrastructure completely.

Finance leaders and CFOs are sometimes wary of the cloud, and this is understandable. Cloud-based services have had their fair share of highly publicized leaks and breaches. These have led some to question whether the cloud is really the right solution for sensitive data, whether financial or privacy-related.

The answer to this concern is twofold. First, the track record of these cloud apps is astoundingly good. Second, take a step back and review the landscape. Do you really trust that your in-house IT or infosec team is as skilled in protecting you from an internal breach as the team at a cloud service is? Your business is broad, and IT infosec is only one small component. For the cloud service, it’s nearly everything. One breach and they’d be out of business.

Mobile Technologies

While mobile technologies are most visible on the sales force and other customer-facing services (like your website), mobile can improve the quality of life for the CFO and finance teams, too. Selecting cloud apps that allow for mobile access gives additional flexibility to where and how work is done and data is displayed.

Need A Great IT Company Who Works With Top CFOs

This is just the surface of what technology can do to empower CFOs in their expanding roles. For more, or for help implementing solutions, contact us today.


Honoring Those Who Gave Their Lives

May 24th, 2019 by Julie Lough

On Memorial Day we remember the veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. These brave men and women have dedicated their lives to honor the living and make our lives better.

 

 

Can’t see the video above?  Click Here.

The History Of Memorial Day

Memorial day is the most solemn American holiday. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day. After the Civil War in 1865, America needed a secular, patriotic ceremony to honor its military dead.

In May 1868, the commander-in-chief of the Union veterans’ group The Grand Army of the Republic, General John A. Logan issued a decree that May 30 should be a nationwide day of commemoration for the more than the 620,000 who were killed in the Civil War.

Decoration Day was a day where he said American should lay flowers and decorate the graves of the war dead “whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.” The federal government began creating national military cemeteries for the Union war dead. Monuments to fallen soldiers were erected and dedicated. Ceremonies were held to decorate soldiers’ graves.

For more than 50 years, the day was only to honor those killed in the Civil War. Finally, after World War I, Memorial Day included honoring those who died in all American wars. And Memorial Day wasn’t officially recognized nationwide until the 1970s, while America was deeply embroiled in the Vietnam War. In 1971, Memorial Day became a national holiday by an act of Congress.

Today

Today we celebrate Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

Although many of us will be enjoying a long weekend, the opening of the local pool, barbeques and some fun at the beach, it’s a day for honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

Today as we enjoy paid leave and ice cream, perhaps a little reflection is in order.

How Best To Remember The Meaning of Memorial Day?

Never forget our fallen soldiers. They have shown us a path to patriotism. We should honor them by our actions. Listen closely to their plea: “Honor us by sacrificing today for a better tomorrow.”

Our office will be closed on Monday for Memorial Day.

We hope that on this day you will make an effort to set aside a quiet moment to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Memorial Day 2019


Top Questions CFOs Have Regarding Backup & Business Continuity

May 22nd, 2019 by Julie Lough

If your organization is large enough to have a CFO, it surely has some kind of backup and business continuity plan in place. Do you understand how this system works? More importantly, is the system your business has in place actually sufficient to protect you in the event of a disaster? These are questions every business needs to ask, and you as the CFO need to be a part of that conversation. To get prepared, here are a few of the top questions CFOs have regarding backup and business continuity, answered.

CFO Disaster Recovery

 

Aren’t Backups Enough?

The short answer is no. The longer answer gets into the wide range of backup formats. On-site backups are a part of the solution, but they don’t protect against natural disasters or physical site breaches. Off-site backups have their limitations, too. The farther away the site, the more logistically challenging data transfer and physical storage can become. On the other hand, if the off-site backup is just down the street, it may be just as vulnerable to the natural disaster that hit your business.

Is the Cloud the Answer?

Cloud backups are a great new innovation in the industry, but they alone won’t save your business, either. Restoring from a cloud backup takes serious bandwidth, and bandwidth could be an issue following a catastrophe. Consider that not all business disasters are natural. If your business suffers a crippling cyber attack, cloud backups may complicate the restoration process.

What is Backup and Disaster Recovery?

Backup and disaster recovery, sometimes shortened to just backup disaster recovery or BDR, is the term for a comprehensive system that includes both data backup and a disaster recovery plan. These two components are designed to work in tandem, allowing a business to remain operational through or quickly restart operations following a disaster. Having a strong BDR plan is the real solution for backups and business continuity.

Backups in BDR

The backup component of your BDR plan should be multifaceted. Most companies benefit from having at least two forms of backup: on- or off-site as well as cloud backup. With backups, redundancy is a desirable feature, not a place to cut costs. Storage drives (whether at your location or in some server farm far away) can fail without warning.

Disaster Recovery in BDR

The disaster recovery component is just as crucial as the backup component. This is security planning, in a nutshell. If your physical office building gets wiped out by a natural disaster, you need more than your data. You need replacement computers, servers, and networks to use that data on, not to mention a place to do that work. Your disaster recovery plan finds the solution to these problems. Develop a recovery time objective, a measurement of the amount of time you’ll need to resume operations. From there, build out a plan for sourcing equipment and facilities.

Your disaster recovery plan is closely tied to your business continuity plan, which outlines how essential functions will keep running or be restored.

What Does a BDR System Accomplish for the Business?

Implementing an effective BDR system has many advantages for your business, including faster recovery time, lower risk, and lower costs.

Faster Recovery

Your business’s recovery time will be much shorter if you have both a detailed plan for what to do in the event of a disaster and a complete, usable backup of all critical systems. There’s no real way to put an exact figure on it, but working a plan is always going to turn out better than winging it, especially when in disaster mode.

Lower Risk

Every step you take toward a well-planned BDR system lowers your business risk. Having an on-site backup is safer than having none. Having on-site paired with off-site is safer still. Adding cloud backup to the mix does the same. Similarly, the more thorough your disaster recovery plan, the lower your risk.

It may sound overly simple, but “be prepared” is a pretty great motto. No business can completely mitigate all risk, but implementing a BDR system lowers your business’s risk profile greatly.

Lower Costs

Companies implementing BDR systems often contract with managed services firms to create and/or execute those systems. It’s worth taking a look at what’s available. You may find that your costs with a managed service provider are lower than the costs of building a BDR in-house.

Even if you determine monetary costs aren’t lower, there’s also an opportunity cost to consider. How confident are you in your in-house plan (or the team that built it)? Is that team made up of dedicated experts, or is everyone involved working just a bit outside their expertise? There is a real opportunity cost to not getting this right. Contracting with a quality MSP reduces the risk of missed opportunities due to an overly long outage or recovery.

Conclusion

If you haven’t yet implemented a BDR system, it’s time to do so. If you need help developing or implementing a BDR at your firm, contact us to get started.


Is The CFO Today’s Technology Champion?

May 21st, 2019 by Julie Lough

CFO Tech Champion

It’s always been important for the C-suite to understand the cost benefits and value associated with technology projects, but today’s complex infrastructure needs are requiring greater levels of input from financial executives, in particular. Technology spends are increasing dramatically, and there’s a need to balance the shorter-term benefits of specific tactics with the long-term strategies that will help move the organization forward. The days of technology teams making do with the funding that they are allowed are over, as technology becomes more tightly intertwined with business strategy. It is crucial that the big dollars invested in technology and innovation are tied to true business value in a way that can be communicated throughout the organization — making the CFO an integral part of the decision-making when it comes to determining the IT spend.

Funding Sustainable Growth

Technology is advancing at an unbelievable rate, with new software applications and methods of reaching customers coming at breakneck speed. Making several poor decisions around technology can create a miasma of problems that can take years to resolve, but that risk is mitigated when financial leaders work closely with technology teams to ensure that there are adequate measures and milestones in place. CFOs must ensure that the organization has the funds available to budget for items that are critical for continued business operations that support corporate strategy and sustainable growth initiatives. This has to be balanced with the additional risk that can be assumed by waiting for “something better” (an application, a way of controlling data or reduced legislation) to come along. According to Gartner, worldwide IT spending is set to reach $3.8 trillion this year, with ongoing increases in spending attributed to IoT, shifting on-premise computing to the cloud, software applications and maintenance fees. With this shift comes a fundamental change in the way technology dollars are budgeted: from capital expenditures to a SaaS model that is billed as an operating expense.

Aligning Technology Spend with Strategic Initiatives

Starting with the strategic initiatives of the business and slotting in technology where needed may be the way CIOs and CTOs are familiar with budgeting, but the new paradigm requires additional work. The risk potential of having business systems vulnerable to a cyberattack is an ongoing concern and one that can require a significant amount of spending in any given year. Data silos are being broken down and consolidated as older legacy systems reach their sunset years. This tension between supporting an often-aging infrastructure and providing a stable base for the future creates a need for creative budgeting throughout the organization. Having the CFO work with technology executives can help bring greater visibility to the IT needs of the organization and how they align with specific strategic initiatives.

Constantly Examining Technology ROI

Part of the budgeting process involves being intentional about determining business ROI for the various technology initiatives and being unafraid to boldly cut or fund projects based on the changing needs of the business. New threats occur on a regular basis — as well as new opportunities to seize dominance in a particular market. Having the flexibility to pivot and create revenue may require a continual review of the various projects as well as a fundamentally different approach to what have traditionally been multi-year IT projects. Vigorously defending projects that no longer provide business ROI can put a major drain on limited organizational resources, especially in light of changing features and functionality for even the most stable business platforms.

Now more than ever, CFOs must have a solid understanding of the business value that IT projects plan to deliver and a solid review of milestones. This shared responsibility with CIOs and CTOs creates not only a greater accord in financial decisions but also a deeper understanding of the value that various projects have for the entire business.


The CFO’s Guide to Smart Investing in Information Technology

May 15th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CFO Technology Guide

Opportunities to spend on tech are endless these days. But your budget isn’t endless. Your company needs to invest in technology, but you need to do it in a way that’s smart and strategic. Check out our CFO’s guide to smart investing in information technology. We’ll show you how to prioritize your technology investment so that you can make smart decisions and stay on budget.

The Problem

The problem with smart investing in information technology is the sheer number of choices available. Hardly a day goes by without a new B2B information technology product hitting the market. You can’t possibly purchase them all, nor does your business need them all.

As the CFO you may or may not be involved in specific purchasing decisions, depending on the size of your business and the size of the purchase. You do, however, bear ultimate responsibility for setting your purchasing strategy. With so many IT investment options available, you may be overwhelmed trying to cut through the noise and decide what’s best for your organization. The lower your comfort level with technology, the worse the confusion gets.

Understand the Importance

The first step toward solving this problem is to engage with it. Understand that in many real ways technology is the future. You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines or to keep doing business as usual. Your competitors aren’t, and you’ll be left behind.

Simply put, picking the right new tech and integrating it successfully into your business can give you a competitive advantage over competitors. Therefore, in concert with your business’s technology team, you and the financial team must evaluate new IT developments, selecting and implementing the trends that will keep you competitive.

A Framework for Evaluating Emerging IT Innovations

Typically, companies receive far more internal requests for new software or hardware that can be approved within the current budget. To add to the problem, B2B sales efforts come from every direction. These promise to solve one problem or another or to give you that competitive advantage over your competitors. Never mind that the salesperson is trying to sell the exact same solution to those competitors.

What’s needed is a framework for evaluating emerging IT innovations. The questions below can help you decide which internal requests and outside sales pitches are worthy of your attention . . . and your money.

Question 1: How does the tech improve the group requesting it?

Many businesses receive countless technology requests from within. You and the finance team likely can’t approve every one of these, nor should you. The easy questions to ask are “does an employee want this software?” or “Will this software improve the employee’s situation?”, but those aren’t the right questions. Instead, ask “how will this piece of software improve this department or the whole company?”

This strategic question can help you prioritize your technology spend. Software A may very well improve life for that one person in sales, but if Software B realizes far more gains for a 30-person division, it ought to rank higher in the budget.

Question 2: Would this investment disrupt our existing IT deployments?

Sometimes blowing up the status quo is just what you need to succeed. Other times, though, wisdom is to leave well enough alone. If a new technology investment isn’t going to play well with your existing systems, you want to find this out before signing off on the purchase.

Neither internal requests nor external sales pitches are immune from this danger. Work with your technology teams to discover how a new investment will interface with your current system. Don’t spend the money until you’re convinced that the new tech will integrate into your current systems.

Question 3: Would this investment disrupt our workflow?

This is similar to question 2, but it focuses on the human component. A shiny new piece of software may well speed up Step 4 in a complex process in your business. Maybe it even cuts the time in half. Sometimes, though, there are trade-offs. You need to know if it’s going to make Steps 1 through 3 an absolute pain to complete, or whether it will add time to Steps 5 through 8.

Avoid facing an employee mutiny by fully vetting the impact the new technology will have on your current workflow. Be sure it’s a true net step forward before you commit.

Question 4: What are the returns on investment we will see by implementing?

With question 1 you’ve already established how the product will benefit one or more departments. Now, take it a step further and look at your ROI. How greatly will this investment increase sales? What estimate can you place on the productivity or quality-of-life gains? Is the cost worth the advantage you’ll gain over competitors? Answering questions like these gets you to a more specific understanding of the true worth of a proposed investment.

Conclusion

Navigating the new technologies available will always be a challenge for CFOs. By asking these 4 questions, you can prioritize your technology investments smartly.


Happy Mother’s Day!

May 10th, 2019 by Julie Lough

May 12th is Mother’s Day – what are your plans to mark the occasion? Flowers? A special meal? A day out with the kids?

 

Whatever your plans are, take some time this Sunday to celebrate all of the mothers in your life, not just your own.

And if this is your day? The Micro Visions Inc. team hopes that it’s a great one!

Happy Mother's Day


Should CMOs and CIOs Partner On Strategic Information Technology?

May 3rd, 2019 by Julie Lough

CMO Technology

For as long as the roles of CMO and CIO have existed, their work has rarely overlapped. CMOs focused on the company’s marketing efforts while CIOs stuck to the technology side of the business. But in today’s digital world, the hard lines that once separated marketing and tech have dissolved. Now, any business that wants to remain competitive must engage in digital transformation—which requires strategic use of information technology incorporating both marketing and IT. That transformation can only be effective if CMOs and CIOs work together.

The Importance of Digital Transformation

According to the Altimeter Group, digital transformation is “The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.” The goal of digital transformation should be to better provide value for the client or customer and to improve competitiveness. To achieve these ends, a strategic approach to information technology must be utilized. And for that to happen, CMOs and CIOs must communicate and strive together in seeking the same goal.

The vast majority of businesses were not founded with digital technologies in mind, and even less were created from day one to take advantage of the digital platforms that have emerged in the past decade, much less those that continue to spring up on a seemingly daily basis.

Chances are, as a CMO you have probably already been thinking long and hard about how your marketing efforts can incorporate the vast array of digital technologies available. Just some of the areas where digital transformation could deliver notable improvements include:

  • Mobile computing
  • Social media
  • Big data
  • Cloud features
  • Data privacy compliance
  • BYOD
  • Data security
  • And more…

Of course, to achieve the kind of transformation that you want and need, certain obstacles must be overcome. You have to determine where you are, where you want to go and how you are going to get there—all of which is best facilitated through the partnership of the CMO and CIO.

Partnership Between Marketing and IT Facilitates Competency

The terrain of digital platforms is difficult to navigate for even the most experienced professionals. To conquer this terrain and make it work for your business, it only makes sense to utilize all the resources at your disposal. Between building, running and managing the digital tools necessary to reach and retain customers, and ensuring that marketing efforts are as well integrated with new technologies as possible, there is simply too much required for one department—marketing or IT—to do alone.

Both CMOs and CIOs face unique challenges from the digital technology field. Some of these include:

Challenges for CMOs

For CMOs, the number of existing and upcoming digital technologies can be overwhelming. There are so many areas that must be considered to achieve competitiveness, including:

  • Buying appropriate technology solutions
  • Managing the technology stack
  • Creating infrastructure for technologies
  • Integrating new technologies with existing enterprise solutions

You could be the most effective CMO in the world when it comes to marketing, yet feel completely in the dark when it comes to how to manage the nuts and bolts of new technologies. That is why different departments exist in organizations—because true competency and skill take years to develop, and no one is capable of being an expert in everything.

Challenges for CIOs

The technology your business needs to operate and serve your customer base is the focus of the CIO. However, the marketing end of the equation is rarely an area where the CIO will have much expertise. Some of the things that the CIO may struggle with include:

  • Continued awareness of company efforts to reach and retain customers
  • Understanding the value proposition presented by the company to the client or customer
  • Needed adaptations in marketing messages as new information comes in
  • Which technologies are most effective for marketing based on company needs

CIOs have their own challenges to contend with as they strive to keep the ship running and determine what the best technology solutions are among an increasingly vast array of options. If they are not brought into the marketing conversation, there is a real risk that the left hand can become detached from the right—possibly even to the point where the CMO and CIO are working at cross purposes.

The benefits of CMOs and CIOs partnering quickly becomes apparent as your company embraces technology. Marketing has never had so much reach as it has today with digital platforms and real-time data. But utilizing that technology requires expertise that is found in the CIO and the IT team.

CMO and CIO—In it Together for the Long Haul

CMOs and CIOs share the same ultimate goal—the success of the organization for which they work. Success in today’s digital environment means utilizing appropriate technologies to keep the business strong, competitive and attractive to the customer. To obtain success requires a partnership between the CMO and CIO to identify areas for improvement, move forward with effective action that will achieve improvements, and to continue to adapt to the rapid changes that are inherent in today’s business world.