IT Tech News and Information

The CFOs Guide To Evaluating Information Technology

April 30th, 2019 by Julie Lough

CFO Tech Guide

Evaluating information technology can be a challenging aspect of the CFO role. Your organization is likely inundated with requests for new IT features, and understanding the true value of many of them requires technical knowledge you may not have. The spending possibilities are nearly endless, and many CFOs have reason to be cautious. Perhaps you’ve been burned in the past, too, convinced by your CIO to sign off an expensive software package that failed to deliver.

In this arena, there are competing fears. You want to avoid spending money on IT solutions that don’t ultimately deliver the promised benefit or that cause unneeded disruption. You also can’t afford to reject an IT request that would have given you a competitive advantage (or worse, one that allows your competitor to gain the upper hand).

Evaluating IT is a tricky business. Here’s our CFO’s guide to evaluating information technology.

Communication Is Key

Communication from the CIO or the tech team is one of the big pain points CFOs face. There are a few reasons for this.

Apples and Oranges

The first communication difficulty is one of dialect. It feels like the IT folks are speaking a completely different language than the finance folks. To a certain degree, they probably are. Your IT group is focused on enabling the company to do more through technology and on increasing your business’s capabilities. Your group spends its time considering the financial aspects of the business. There can be inherent tension there.

Unhealthy Shortsightedness

In some businesses, it’s even worse. In unhealthy businesses, the CIO and IT team pursue technology innovations that don’t truly align with the company’s needs. They lobby to purchase software that adds capability you don’t need and solves problems you don’t have. Similarly, the CFO and the finance team in an unhealthy organization can fail to see the value of a spend or defer a purchase long enough that a competitor gains an advantage.

Either side of the equation—IT or finance—can become too narrowly focused on its own objectives. When this happens, the company loses out.

Finding Common Ground

CFOs and CIOs need to find common ground, a shared language that focuses both on the ultimate goal: making the company succeed. Ask bigger questions. Which of the company’s (not the department’s) goals will this IT spend help achieve? Is there a less expensive alternative that will still meet the company’s goals? What metrics will we gain by implementing this solution, and how will those benefit the company? Are there any metrics that can show how the proposed investment will improve a process? If those metrics show that an investment is failing to deliver, can we get out of the contract?

Questions like these are all rooted in a “what’s best for the company” mentality. Find a common language using questions like these, and avoid conversations that only benefit finance or IT.

Establish a Clear Approval Structure

The likelihood of conflict between the CFO and CIO increases greatly in organizations without a clear approval structure. To determine whether that’s your organization, mentally answer the following questions.

  • Do you (or your reports) approve every IT spend?
  • If not, who else can approve?
  • What criteria determine which requests require CFO approval? Dollar amount? Subscription/lease entanglements? What else?
  • Is there an established, documented appeal process when you deny an IT spend?

Depending on the size of your organization it may not be sensible for the CFO to approve every spend. Individual projects may have their own needs and budgets. If that’s the case, a clear approval structure is still crucial. Who on the team can make purchasing decisions? What criteria kick the decision up to a higher level?

In the end, to have a clear approval structure your business needs both a clear vision and strong, clear communication between the finance and tech teams and their leaders.

Visualize your Strengths and Vulnerabilities

Another central problem with evaluating information technologies is prioritization. Everyone wants a piece of the budgetary pie, and it’s your job to allocate it. You need a way to determine where your priorities ought to lie. This is challenging in complex organizations due to the number of requests and the varied nature of those requests.

Creating a visualization of your IT strengths and weaknesses can help you plan and prioritize. What can IT presently do for you? What are the known vulnerabilities? What systems or programs are on their way toward obsolescence? What functions or abilities does the organization view as needful but doesn’t have currently? Are there information technology solutions for those functions or abilities?

Mapping out your strengths and weaknesses gives you a clearer picture of which moves are strategic.

Conclusion

That’s it for our quick CFO’s guide on how to evaluate IT spends. If you want to learn more on this topic, or for assistance with a wide range of IT-related questions, contact us today.


Happy Administrative Professionals Day!

April 24th, 2019 by Julie Lough

April 24th is Administrative Professionals Day, which is an occasion worth celebrating. No office can function without hardworking and dedicated administrative staff, so why not take this as an opportunity to remind them how much you value them?

 

 

Treat your administrative staff to a little something special today, and let them know how important they are to everything that your business does.

Happy Admin Professionals Day


CFO Tech Blog: How To Become The Tech Savvy CFO

April 23rd, 2019 by Julie Lough

Tech Savvy CFO

More than ever, today’s CFOs are expected to have a degree of tech savviness. Big data and analytics are tools that are just too powerful to ignore in the CFO suite. If you’re not particularly tech savvy, harnessing the power of these tools to the fullest extent will remain out of reach.

Why You Need to Become the Tech Savvy CFO

It’s crucial to understand just how powerful today’s technology tools are for financial leadership. Whatever the nature of your business and industry, technology can empower you and your staff in the following ways.

Forecasting and Risk

Forecasting has always been a part of the CFO’s role. Forecasting today can be much more accurate, thanks to the rich data that’s available. CFOs must have the skills to understand and interpret that data (or they must employ people who can). Use robust data and analytics to reduce the amount of guesswork in your forecasting.

Risk management is another responsibility under your purview as CFO. Forecasting and risk management are interrelated, of course, and both have traditionally involved a fair bit of prediction and uncertainty. If you’re like most CFOs, you’re a fairly risk-averse person. Reduce the risks of prediction and uncertainty by basing your decision-making on data wherever possible.

Advanced Data Visualization Techniques

All this data that companies now have access to can quickly become overwhelming. Today’s tech savvy CEOs harness the power of advanced data visualization techniques to bring the most important information to the surface. These techniques include making dashboards for interacting with the data and scorecards for presenting it to users at all levels.

Predictive Analytics

In the 1960s, business predictions were often made around a conference table in a smoke-filled room. They were based on some amount of data, but hunches, opinions, and interpersonal power dynamics often played an outsized role.

Today, there’s a better way. Predictive analytics are driven by algorithms and data, not by cigars and opinions. Leverage the power of all the data you’ve collected into predictive analytics. While they are neither perfect nor omniscient, predictive analytics remove human biases from forecasting. This powerful tool can enhance your effectiveness as a CFO.

Adjust in Real Time

The CFO that understands how to use these new tools can be agile, adjusting in real time based on the data that’s coming in. Many marketplaces change rapidly, and a 6-month-old report may no longer ring true. Big data and analytics let CFOs make these quick adjustments as they continually monitor data and adjust their predictions.

Drive Growth

Acting on your analysis of data can often spur on innovation and growth. Creating efficiencies aids in growth, and as you do so you’re likely to discover new business opportunities, such as a hole in the market that your company is suited to fill.

How to Become the Tech Savvy CFO

Having a tech savvy CFO brings many advantages to a company. As a result, being a tech savvy CFO makes you a much more valuable asset. If you’re not there yet, here are a few quick tips for how to get there.

Learn Analytics

Yes, this sounds basic, but if you don’t understand how to use analytics to do the things we’ve talked about, you need to learn. If others in your company already know analytics, leverage your rank. You are the CFO, after all—make it part of their job to teach you. If you’re in a smaller firm that has yet to embrace big data and analytics, it may be time to go get a certification in this area.

Meet Regularly with Experts

Your CIO, if your firm has one, should be well versed in the sorts of technology we’ve discussed today. Meet regularly with your CIO and ask questions. Do the same with other experts in your network. They aren’t the finance people, so they may not readily see how big data and analytics can transform your role. As your understanding grows and you learn to them the right questions, you’re likely to discover breakthroughs together.

Read What They Read

Sites like CIO.com are go-to resources for CIOs, but you can benefit there, too. Not every article will apply to what you’re learning, but many will. Reading sites like these will increase your overall tech comfort level.

Leverage the Data

As your understanding of analytics grows, you can start leveraging that data in real, meaningful ways. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in a deluge of data if you don’t have the tools to parse through it. At the same time, it’s possible to parse the data so finely that you miss valuable conclusions. As your comfort level grows, you’ll improve in leveraging data to the fullest extent.

Educate Your Team

Last, you need to educate your team. As you journey to become a tech-savvy CFO, teach your team what you’re learning so that they can help you win using data and analytics.


Celebrate World Backup Day on March 31st

March 29th, 2019 by Julie Lough

When Was Your Last Backup?

Data backups are a critical part of protecting the information and files you cannot afford to lose. And yet, many people have bad backup habits – or no backup habits at all.

 

 

March 31st is World Backup Day – a perfect opportunity for you to update your existing backups, double-check that your backups are functional and retrievable, or create that backup you’ve been meaning to get around to.

Data Backup

Need help creating or maintaining your data backup system? Give Micro Visions Inc. a call at (616) 7760-0400 or email us at and talk to our technology experts today.


What Is Windows Lite?

March 27th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Is Windows Lite Microsoft’s Answer to Google’s Chrome OS?

Microsoft is working on a new operating system — Lite — with a different look that’s designed for the casual computer user while targeting Google’s Chrome OS  

Windows Lite

Windows Lite is the oft-rumored, highly anticipated stripped-down operating system that Microsoft is reportedly working and could be unveiled sometime in the spring of 2019. What exactly is Windows Lite and why is Microsoft investing in it?

What Is Windows Lite?

Rumors began to surface in late 2018 that Microsoft was working on a new version of its Windows 10 operating system. While details have spotty at best, it appears that Windows Lite is intended to be Microsoft’s latest attempt to compete with Google’s Chrome OS, the driver of its popular Chromebook product line.

Windows Lite reportedly will be faster and leaner than other Windows operating systems. In fact, some reports indicate that the new operating system will be so different from other Windows products that Microsoft may remove the “Windows” name from it altogether.

How Will Windows Lite Work?

The new operating system reportedly will only run apps from the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) downloaded from the Microsoft store. It will also allow progressive web apps, which are applications that are run through an online service but operate like an offline app. Microsoft is exploring whether Lite will eventually be able to support Win32 apps as well.

Windows Lite will also be instantly on and always connected. It will be designed to work with multiple CPUs, providing flexible options for device manufacturers and consumers.

The focus is on building a product that emphasizes simple interactions and maintenance.

It’s expected that Windows Lite will not be available directly to consumers but rather to OEMs as a way to offer an alternative to the increasingly popular Chromebook. Instead, it will come pre-installed on laptops marketed to the home user and students.

The product is designed for users who only need “light” computing without the power, complexity and strength of traditional Windows operating systems. For users who need to write an essay, chat with friends or listen to music, Windows 10 is a bit of overkill.

Will It Look Like Windows?

The Lite OS will likely look very little like Windows. The interface is expected to be cleaner and more modern. The Start button is in the middle of the screen, for example. The search box is reminiscent of Chrome OS, with suggested and pinned applications listed prominently.

That said, there are some familiar components. File Explorer is still there and foundational components like Settings are present at this time.

The divergence from Windows is why some believe that Microsoft will remove the Windows branding entirely from the new product. Why would Microsoft intentionally move away from the established, decades-long Windows brand?

For one, ‘Windows’ carries with it certain expectations about functionality and capabilities. Microsoft may well want to begin reshaping how people think about what an operating system is, what it looks like and its user interface. It could be the beginning of a new direction for the company.

It could also be a way to circumvent the notion that Windows is too complex, complicated or fully featured, attracting those who have sworn off Windows operating systems in the past.

When Will Windows Lite Be Available?

There has been no official announcement or scheduled release date published. Given that hints about the new operating system are beginning to appear in Windows Insider builds, it’s likely that Microsoft is quite far along in its development. One possible target for an unveiling would be at the Microsoft Build 2019 conference in May 2019. Wider testing could begin this summer.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day This Sunday

March 15th, 2019 by Julie Lough

March 17th is one of our favorite days of the year – St. Patrick’s Day. For some, it’s a day to celebrate centuries of rich culture and Irish heritage, and for others, an opportunity to have a pint or two with friends.

 

However you’ll be spending this St. Paddy’s, our team hopes you have a fun and safe 17th.

St. Patricks Day


Spring Forward This Sunday

March 7th, 2019 by Julie Lough

Daylight Saving Time for 2019 starts on Sunday, March 10th.

I’m sure you know how Daylight Saving Time (DST) works, but did you know not everyone in the US observes this time change? Arizona hasn’t observed DST since 1967, and Hawaii has never used DST. Michigan skipped DST from 1969 – 1973, while Florida is in the process of moving to keep DST year round!

Daylight Saving is a great excuse to sleep a little later this Sunday – take advantage, and don’t forget to double check your non-Internet connected timekeeping devices.

Daylight Savings Time


Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day

January 21st, 2019 by Julie Lough

Martin Luther King Day

Remembered mostly for his “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. was a man who fought to end segregation in this country. On this day, we remember someone who devoted their life to achieving racial equality.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Georgia in 1929. He graduated from high school at the young age of 15. From there, he earned his B.A. degree from Morehouse College and after studying theology for 3 years, he earned his B.D. and was president of his senior class at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. Soon after, King won a fellowship at Crozer. He completed his residency in 1953 and earned his doctorate degree in 1955. Martin Luther King Jr. was a pastor, following the path of his father and grandfather.

Martin Luther King Jr. began to preach at a church in Montgomery, Alabama. He followed Gandhi’s philosophy, believing in nonviolence and equality. In 1955, King led the first large, nonviolent protest against racial segregation on buses. Though he conducted this without violence, people who opposed his beliefs responded with violence. Fortunately, this led to the Supreme Court declaring bus segregation as unconstitutional in December of 1956.

It wasn’t until 1963 that King directed the march in which he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. There were hundreds of thousands of people there to witness the historic event. A year after this march, racial discrimination was completely prohibited, meaning that nothing could be legally segregated for years to come.

Over the course of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. made a great difference in the lives of thousands of Americans. His actions and accomplishments made over 50 years ago impact the daily lives of many and will continue to do so as time progresses.