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The CFO’s Guide to Smart Investing in Information Technology
Opportunities to spend on tech are endless these days. But your budget isn’t endless. Your company needs to invest in technology, but you need to do it in a way that’s smart and strategic. Check out our CFO’s guide to smart investing in information technology. We’ll show you how to prioritize your technology investment so that you can make smart decisions and stay on budget.
The problem with smart investing in information technology is the sheer number of choices available. Hardly a day goes by without a new B2B information technology product hitting the market. You can’t possibly purchase them all, nor does your business need them all.
As the CFO you may or may not be involved in specific purchasing decisions, depending on the size of your business and the size of the purchase. You do, however, bear ultimate responsibility for setting your purchasing strategy. With so many IT investment options available, you may be overwhelmed trying to cut through the noise and decide what’s best for your organization. The lower your comfort level with technology, the worse the confusion gets.
Understand the Importance
The first step toward solving this problem is to engage with it. Understand that in many real ways technology is the future. You can’t afford to sit on the sidelines or to keep doing business as usual. Your competitors aren’t, and you’ll be left behind.
Simply put, picking the right new tech and integrating it successfully into your business can give you a competitive advantage over competitors. Therefore, in concert with your business’s technology team, you and the financial team must evaluate new IT developments, selecting and implementing the trends that will keep you competitive.
A Framework for Evaluating Emerging IT Innovations
Typically, companies receive far more internal requests for new software or hardware that can be approved within the current budget. To add to the problem, B2B sales efforts come from every direction. These promise to solve one problem or another or to give you that competitive advantage over your competitors. Never mind that the salesperson is trying to sell the exact same solution to those competitors.
What’s needed is a framework for evaluating emerging IT innovations. The questions below can help you decide which internal requests and outside sales pitches are worthy of your attention . . . and your money.
Question 1: How does the tech improve the group requesting it?
Many businesses receive countless technology requests from within. You and the finance team likely can’t approve every one of these, nor should you. The easy questions to ask are “does an employee want this software?” or “Will this software improve the employee’s situation?”, but those aren’t the right questions. Instead, ask “how will this piece of software improve this department or the whole company?”
This strategic question can help you prioritize your technology spend. Software A may very well improve life for that one person in sales, but if Software B realizes far more gains for a 30-person division, it ought to rank higher in the budget.
Question 2: Would this investment disrupt our existing IT deployments?
Sometimes blowing up the status quo is just what you need to succeed. Other times, though, wisdom is to leave well enough alone. If a new technology investment isn’t going to play well with your existing systems, you want to find this out before signing off on the purchase.
Neither internal requests nor external sales pitches are immune from this danger. Work with your technology teams to discover how a new investment will interface with your current system. Don’t spend the money until you’re convinced that the new tech will integrate into your current systems.
Question 3: Would this investment disrupt our workflow?
This is similar to question 2, but it focuses on the human component. A shiny new piece of software may well speed up Step 4 in a complex process in your business. Maybe it even cuts the time in half. Sometimes, though, there are trade-offs. You need to know if it’s going to make Steps 1 through 3 an absolute pain to complete, or whether it will add time to Steps 5 through 8.
Avoid facing an employee mutiny by fully vetting the impact the new technology will have on your current workflow. Be sure it’s a true net step forward before you commit.
Question 4: What are the returns on investment we will see by implementing?
With question 1 you’ve already established how the product will benefit one or more departments. Now, take it a step further and look at your ROI. How greatly will this investment increase sales? What estimate can you place on the productivity or quality-of-life gains? Is the cost worth the advantage you’ll gain over competitors? Answering questions like these gets you to a more specific understanding of the true worth of a proposed investment.
Navigating the new technologies available will always be a challenge for CFOs. By asking these 4 questions, you can prioritize your technology investments smartly.