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Technology impacts virtually every aspect of business operations today. Network downtime is a disaster for large businesses, virtually paralyzing employees in many cases, and seriously limiting operations at smaller businesses. Information technology supports nearly all business functions, and that means that IT planning must be fully incorporated into strategic business planning.
One key step in the process of seamlessly integrating IT decision-making into the strategic fold is to make sure that the right people are sitting at the table where long-term plans are being made, and that all of their voices are heard.
Image by Floriam SEROUSSI.
Bringing the CFO Onboard for Technology Decision-Making
CFOs are only invited to boardroom strategic planning sessions when important financial issues are on the table at most companies. The thought has been that finance guys simply won't have anything to contribute to a discussion of technology, and they can be called in to consult when the planning gets to the budgeting stage.
This kind of self-limiting approach to strategic technology planning is not productive, and not taking advantage of the knowledge and skill set of experienced, well-grounded CFOs is simply short-sighted. CFOs typically bring a great deal to C-suite and boardroom discussions, particularly in the areas of evaluating risk, grokking the big picture and being prepared to deal with the internal ramifications of outsourcing.
Evaluating Risk -- CFOs are trained to evaluate financial risk, and that mindset is definitely of value in long term planning. The CFO is responsible for a company’s assets, both tangible and intangible, and needs to understand what and where these assets are so he can make sure they are protected. Having the CFO involved in meetings with the executive team of a service provider can help eliminate a range of potential issues and help ensure that you are contracting for the service levels you need.
Seeing the Big Picture -- The primary responsibility of a CFO is to evaluate investments to ensure they enhance company profitability and are providing the expected return on capital. Technology investments need to be considered in the same light. Creating a plan that aligns new technology with the needs of the business is a long-term undertaking, and should be evaluated on a long-term basis. Investments made in technology initiatives today could look very different in just a few years, and it is companies who thoroughly evaluate the future competitive landscape, customer needs and macroeconomic factors that are going to get the most value out of their technology investments.
Dealing With the Ramifications of Outsourcing -- First, many CFOs will have already been through the process of outsourcing payroll or HR or accounting, and they can help avoid missteps and pitfalls during the transition. One final consideration is that outsourcing a function inevitably results in other changes to internal processes. Both the CIO and CFO need to be part of the planning for these changes in processes to make sure the changes improve operations and have a positive impact the bottom line.