It’s that time of year when the annual planning cycle usually starts to come to life. Last year it never stood a chance as events overtook it. Many projects were put on hold, but many were fast tracked and ended up delivering faster and cheaper than anyone ever expected. I expect this year will be different again. There is more than a rumour out there that CFOs are in the mood for investing in technology.
Several recent surveys have reported that CFOs now really appreciate just how much of their company’s value creation is being enabled by technology. The last 15 months have meant that they are now better able to understand the contribution technology is making, not just to everyday business resilience and reliability but also to support hybrid working, new ways of collaborating and partnering to deliver new services. CFOs are increasingly tech savvy, and like us they see that there’s still a way to go before businesses have completed their digital journeys. The important thing is that for many CFOs technology is now one of their top 5 priorities for the immediate short term. They are keen to collaborate with CIOs to ensure their companies get the most from digitalisation and emerging technology. However, before CIOs and CTOs start jumping for joy there are of course some strings attached to the CFOs newly found enthusiasm.
Is it just a case of make do and mend after all? Well not quite, we have at least moved on from the strategy of making budgets smaller each year and yet wanting more. With the economic situation still tight and competition for business increasing, making good technology investment decisions and being quick to discard bad ones is a competitive advantage organization can’t overlook. CFOs are not in the mood to spend money on IT fripperies or anything that can be reasonably avoided just yet. This of course relies on a fair measurement of the benefits. So more than ever CFOs are looking for investment projects with strong ROIs.
For some – the best way to increase ROI will be to reduce costs. For many ‘not for profit’ or government agencies that can’t increase sales or others trying to get back to growth cost reduction is the place to look. Again, digitising manual or paper-based processes or using real time data instead of site visits is going to help. Many companies have looked at this during Covid-19, one winner has been the digitisation of medical results. Taking a critical look at your IT hardware and network comms is also likely to reap benefits especially as technology moves forward and Vendors increase their range of offerings. Is there an option to buy more from one reputable vendor rather than have 2 or 3 separate contracts for example?
What better way to deliver ROI than to better optimise the technology you already have and build on it?
So, if you were hoping for a large ERP project you might be disappointed especially if your current one is not broken. CFOs are more likely to be on the lookout for smaller, out of the box incremental integration and configuration initiatives that deploy quickly and generate rapid paybacks. They have warmed to the economics of out of the box approaches which require less consulting spend, deploy much faster and are cheaper to support. So, augmenting your current ERP with SaaS to improve process efficiency might just be an eye catcher.
CFOs are clearly also interested in productivity improvements and for many firms with people as their most expensive asset increasing the value, they can deliver by better using their time and capabilities is going to get CFOs interested. So naturally automation and standardisation of processes will help and create improved customer experience. Many employees are working remotely and will continue to have hybrid working patterns. There is nothing worse than having convoluted access via a special computer to your corporate systems and SaaS services that is also slow. So, projects that combine network access and security profiles such as cloud delivered SASE to enable secure access from anywhere is likely to reduce costs and promote employee satisfaction
Make something better – Is there an opportunity to reduce losses through fraud and theft? Or could you help make an existing product better by turning it into a service? Or helping the business to improve sales with a pay as you go model? Compute might be centralised now as we focus on cloud adoption, but it will soon become more devolved as IOT and edge compute picks up – so could it be time to solve that last mile problem you have been having or reduce over supply with real time usage and consumption data?
If you have exhausted building what you have or productivity improvements, then you can always solve a problem…right?
One thing Covid-19 has done is highlight the lack of straight through processes. Convoluted processes and multiple hand offs were bearable when we were co-located but remote working has exposed their brittle nature and their impact when we try to deal with remote customers, increased volumes, or scale. What do you do when the courts of justice still have to function, but no one can meet? How do you secure all remote access, internet, and network traffic, with government grade security and deploy quickly? Or when you have huge backlogs due to a spike in demand and need to connect and collaborate with new suppliers remotely?
There are not many technologies that could hit all the ROI use cases above – cloud and SaaS are definitely 2 of them with ROIs 5+ times better than on-premises and improving. Edge and IOT can also target a few. But sometimes it’s the impact of simpler changes such as introducing single sign-on, augmenting enterprise licence agreements, introducing master data governance or network transformation using techniques such Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) that we overlook. Its these types of ‘closer to home’ changes that enable us to build on what we have quickly and at the same time they pave the way for digital transformation.
At CIO WaterCooler, we would recommend you take a look at our trusted partners such as Cloud Gateway as part of your 2022 planning to deliver stakeholder value and ROI.