Leading the IT conversation to drive growth.

Author:Kanneman, Paul
Position:Technology - Company overview

In an uncertain economy and marketplace, change is the only constant. Long-range planning has grown nearly impossible. Competition is fiercer and faster than ever, as advances in technologies have shrunk the mean time to detect (MTD) and mean time to respond (MIR) to marketplace changes.

Companies need to be adaptive and agile to thrive. In fact, the ability of companies to sense and respond to their environment is quickly becoming a core competitive differentiator. Dynamic companies have begun to recognize that harnessing several emerging technologies can allow them to compete more effectively in this fast-changing environment.

Four "new" technologies--cloud computing, mobility, social media and data analytics--which arguably are not at all new, but rather a culmination of more than 50 years of evolutionary progress in the physics of silicon and circuitry--are rapidly changing business models across every industry.

Chief financial officers (CFO) are finally beginning to realize the promise (versus the vendor hype) of these technologies for competitive advantage. Implemented right, these technologies present a window of opportunity for CFOs to unlock new agility to innovate in and disrupt their markets.

For instance, social media enables companies to test new brands and concepts and quickly build product demand through customer interaction. Cloud computing enables them to scale their compute capacity up or down in response to business demands. Mobile technologies allow them to push new self-service capabilities out to their client base wherever the customer may be, while data analytics enables the ability to quickly sense trends and respond accordingly.

But these technologies are unlikely to fulfill their promise if they are treated as the end-game--when, in fact, the business strategy is the end-game. CFOs need to be squarely at the table, asking the right questions, and helping to establish the framework and guardrails about how technology can support the organization's strategic objectives, and not the other way around.

Leveraging the Cloud and Mobile as a Foundation

At its core, cloud computing allows the rapid scaling of a company's computing power separated from asset ownership and location while taking into account security and controls requirements. For CFOs, cloud discussions normally start (and too often end) with an analysis of operating expenses (OPEX) versus capital expenses (CAPEX) spending.

Strategically, though, these discussions should start with a conversation among key stakeholders as to the nature of information technology as an asset, the value it (and the company's data) contribute to the business and what can be "rented" as a commodity service versus what needs to be owned, managed and protected as a value-add component of the business. These emerging technologies present the opportunity and impetus for CFOs to lead that discussion in a manner different from the past.

Extending applications and corporate data out to any device, employee, customer or supplier, exponentially increases the locations from which business can be conducted. Today, business leaders are asking: How can we use mobile applications to enable our key stakeholders to engage with us--wherever they are and whenever they want? CFOs should view mobility technology as one of the greatest opportunities to disrupt the MTD and MTR equation.

Fostering the Organizational Capability to Sense and Respond

For most CFOs, identifying a single source of truth has long been a priority. With the exponential growth of available data, they now face the "big data" dilemma. At its heart, big data is a continuation of the challenge to handle the ever increasing volume, velocity and variety of data available to a company, sort through it and validate its veracity, synthesize it into meaningful, actionable content...

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