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Today’s CFO: Tech savvy and risk aware

20 Mar 2015

Every business needs four key groups to ‘buy-in’ to a tech solution:

  • Finance - They have to know the total cost of ownership
  • Management - They want to see how the technology helps the business
  • IT services - They’ll be responsible for making it work
  • Users - They are the ones who will use it

The closer these groups communicate and collaborate, the more likely the project will be a success.

Key to the entire process is the CFO. Indeed, today’s CFO typically has a foot in each camp. As the CFO, of course, they have to add up all of the costs. Hardware and software, to be sure, but also professional services, admin time, maintenance and training. And risk.

As part of the management team, the CFO has to be shown the quantifiable benefits: Faster reports, streamlined administration, lower hardware costs, licensing discounts. Plus the qualitative benefits: enhanced staff satisfaction, faster and safer access, better communications.

And, increasingly, the CFO is more tightly aligned with the IT services team, especially in the SME space where the lines of communication are shorter. Indeed, many CFOs in New Zealand are taking on more responsibility for IT simply because technology can have such a huge impact on the bottom line. If the CFO wants to keep a lid on costs while enhancing productivity, the pathway leads through IT.

Similarly, savvy CFOs track staff satisfaction with the tech tools they are given. They should track progress to measure performance versus expectations. They’ll talk to the help desk to see where improvements can be made. And they’ll keep up with trends to learn how other, similar, companies are addressing challenges in the workplace.

CFOs are increasingly aware that cost savings and enhanced productivity are only part of the equation.

The other key consideration is risk management, especially when evaluating security solutions. Being proactive in hardening defences against intruders, hackers and malware can go a long way in avoiding a major disruption. For instance, the recent Sony Pictures Entertainment hack cost at least US$15 million in direct costs, not to mention a few resignations in the boardroom.

One of the challenges for today’s CFO is to keep ahead of the curve with securing the mobile workforce. The selling point for moving enterprise apps to personal smartphones is that it enhances productivity at a low price point. Music to the CFO’s ears. But the hidden cost is the greater risk of malware getting into the network via social media on an unsecured device.

The CFO is a key player in any IT initiative. They not only pay for the technology but are tasked with ensuring that the technology doesn’t compromise security. Managing risk, especially in respect to securing the network, is the best way to ensure business continuity. And that is a vital function for today’s switched-on CFO.

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