While it seems obvious that CIOs would be responsible for IT investments, it appears that CFOs have considerable influence over these essential purchases. According to a recent Gartner survey (Survey Analysis: Critical CFO Technology Needs: 2014 Gartner FEI Study, John E. Van Decker, June 23, 2014), “CFOs authorize 29% of technology investments, while CEOs and CIOs authorize 23% and 5%, respectively.” With non-IT executives involved in technology purchases, it stands to reason that enterprises are looking to control costs and to more closely align their technology investments with their corporate objectives. The message here for IT leaders is that they need to understand corporate goals in order provide the technology resources and capabilities that best support the enterprise and put it in a position to make intelligent, well-informed, and cost-effective business decisions.
Gartner has identified four major technology trends that will drive technology planning, investment and usage in 2014 and beyond: the nexus of social, mobile, cloud and information.
Access to information – and the ability to share it – is key to executives, so it shouldn’t be surprising that social capabilities were identified as a major technology trend. According to the Gartner survey, 10% of survey respondents believe that creating an effective environment for sharing relevant information is among the top business priorities requiring the most year-over-year improvement. Social capabilities can increase communication within the organization as well as with customers and other external stakeholders. As social media continues to evolve and offer new roadmaps for communication, businesses need to build their technology capabilities to support this critical and collaborative initiative.
As the pace of the business world continues to speed along, the use of mobile applications will continue to climb, particularly in large organizations and with executives. According to the Gartner survey, enterprise mobility has become the 11th most important technology investment. We believe this is because executives are using mobile applications to access critical information on-the-go. As companies begin to purchase technology that supports the rise of mobile applications, security will continue to be a key consideration in employing this support. As businesses begin to vet solutions, they may want to consider looking outside their internal infrastructure to a third-party provider with the know-how to provide the level of security necessary to support the growing need for mobility.
It’s well documented that cloud computing is becoming more accepted in the business realm. The Gartner survey certainly confirms this and further asserts that “the projected use of the cloud has doubled over the 2013 study for business analytics, integrated financial management applications and many corporate performance management areas” and that “81% of organizations forecast a move to the cloud for more than 50% of their future transactions.” As another investment CFOs are ready to make, cloud-based solutions can optimize IT cost-efficiency by supplementing aging legacy systems to maintain or improve performance levels.
Although cloud adoption is clearly on the rise, some companies still have concerns that hold them back from employing cloud-based solutions. Twenty percent of CFOs surveyed cited security concerns as their main reason for not using cloud-based solutions, with ERP/SAP legacy systems (19%) and cost of conversion (18%) the second and third reasons. These concerns are not unexpected, but can be reasonably alleviated by employing the right cloud service provider (CSP) for a particular organization. For companies concerned with security, some CSPs – such as Peak 10 – offer secure, compliant clouds. Peak 10 undergoes yearly independent audits to ensure its compliance and can help its customers achieve the necessary regulatory compliance as well.
The emergence of the hybrid cloud allows companies to supplement their legacy systems with a third-party cloud environment that supplements the needs of an aging infrastructure while easing into a cutting-edge solution to control the costs associated with bringing new technology in-house. In choosing a CSP, a company must understand its unique needs. For example, if analytics is key to corporate success as indicated by the CFOs in Gartner’s survey, then a CSP with the ability to offer analysis as a managed service will also be a key factor in choosing a provider.
BI and Analytics
IT has stepped out of its support and maintenance role and into the decision-making support and optimization role as they are now charged with providing the technology applications that can assist business leaders in analyzing data to make effective decisions and set essential objectives. Two key investments CFOs are ready to make are BI and analytics. According to the report, CFOs indicated that “facilitating analysis and decision making” and “ongoing monitoring of business performance” are two top business priorities requiring technology support within their organizations.
To be successful in the CFO’s eyes, IT staff will need to secure and implement new applications that can achieve and deliver this level of BI and analytics to help business leaders improve business performance while controlling costs. So how does a business implement this need? There is always the internal solution of researching, purchasing, implementing, and maintaining the applications onsite. However, the costs and resources associated with this can be overwhelming, especially when businesses are already dealing with aging technology and time-stressed internal resources. One option may be an outsourced solution that offers cutting-edge analytics technology without impacting or further straining internal resources. With either solution, the key for the business is to receive the intelligence that will drive better business decisions and direction.
The role of technology in the business world continues to evolve to become essential in key decision-making initiatives. As the pace continues to accelerate and business needs continue to change, business leaders look at technology – and the people who provide it – as the means to the end. Whether the “end” is the ability to analyze business data, the supporting infrastructure that ensures optimal performance, or the on-the-go access to key information, CFOs have their sights on the future of the business, and clearly technology plays an important, forward-looking role in this success.