AS THE CFO of a communications and technology company, the subject of expenditure on emerging technology versus the business benefit it could bring is a hot topic. But what makes the subject truly interesting is who is requesting the investment in technology.
The “democratisation of IT” is truly upon us. Financially, it means my team is now geared for technological business investment cases that no longer sit solely within an IT team. Technology is no longer a dark art practised by a knowledgeable few – previously labelled the “computer geeks”. Instead, it is now more widely understood and used by the majority. This change means that decision making has become extremely difficult because many have an opinion, and solutions are funded and driven by the wider business, not necessarily a central IT decision-maker. More than ever, technology decisions must have a solid business case with a clear return on investment.
This concept sits neatly in what Gartner refers to as the “Nexus of Forces” – the idea of “mobile”, “cloud”, “social” and “information” working in unison. Whether we are ready for it or not, individual technologies have to interact and work smartly together. It is a real business issue. For our customers, for our industry and for our own business, the amassing of data and the increasing number of communications channels mean there is no option but to have them working in unison.
The technology sector is shifting all the time. This is partly due to the pace of technological change, but also because customers are becoming more demanding of their service providers, the technology they want to use and the technology they have already invested in.
I witness two forces on a daily basis – the demands of the external and internal customer. Our external end-user customers – British businesses – drive our decision making for new products, and we witness the shifts in revenue attributable to the product mix, one of our key business measures. We see the emergence of technologies such as cloud computing and mobile 4G and understand we have to invest in these areas but also make these work together, as well as make them fit with existing technologies and for the benefit of the customer.
Then we have our internal demands: the decisions on how the Daisy team wants to invest in the technology mix that allows our own organisation to function. Employees aren’t necessarily location-based anymore; customer service teams interact through social media because that is how the customer can speak quickly, directly and with impact. Similarly, employees want to use their own tablets and phones rather than their company’s – hence the popularity of bring-your-own-device (BYOD).
Armed with smartphones and tablets at home and at work, everyone is now a technology user. And the technology we use as consumers has altered our views on how technology should be used in business. Daisy is no different. My role has evolved to consider the case for technology investment across the entire business: customer service software tools, led by customer services and not IT; marketing automation software, driven by a marketing team that has also developed a new website geared to a business community that wishes to browse on mobile devices rather than traditional computers.
In general, executives who work outside of the IT department have a higher comfort level with using technology and adapting to new systems than they did a decade ago. But this has also made them more demanding and more of an expert.
Demands dictate that IT and communications are viewed more holistically in an organisation. The smartphone-tablet-using customer who asks what is this week’s new technology has changed the technology landscape and is shaping the way organisations interact and forcing their hand as to the technology they choose to invest in. ?
Steve Smith, CFO of Daisy Group, recently won the UK’s Hot 20 FDs in TMT. The competition is run by BDO