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What Should CFOs Ask Their IT Department For This Christmas?

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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Christmas is a time for giving, so perhaps IT teams will give their CFOs a bit of extra help this year. But what should CFO’s ask for help with? Here are some ideas

Tom Castley, VP of EMEA at Xactly

“What CFOs should be asking for this Christmas is a business minded crystal ball to forecast next year’s performance. However, if Santa doesn’t deliver, then luckily for them there are technology solutions available that will enable them to gain this foresight. Through the ability to map employee performance, CFOs can benchmark against their corporate metrics, enabling them to monitor sales figures and targets that can automate and monetize the execution against those goals. Having an insight driven-business and better understanding of where the success is coming from is the key to productivity.”

Martin Ashall, CTO UK at CA Technologies

“CFOs want to maximise their revenue in this busiest trading period of the year and apps are key to achieving this. The only ‘fire’ they want over the festive period is the one to snooze in front of, may be with a single malt in their hand, knowing that everything back at the office is performing as planned.

“A strong backend, full cooperation between dev and ops teams and a flawless application performance will no doubt top the list of Christmas wishes for most CFOs this year. Zero downtime and no missed transactions will be the best gift their IT departments could grant them.”

moneyChris Purcell, product marketing manager at Epicor Software

“With 50 percent of the UK’s CFOs relying on ‘gut-feel’ and instinct to make businesses decisions in 2015, for Christmas CFOs need to be asking their IT teams for consolidated, accurate internal data at their fingertips. Negative outcomes from the current lack of process include delays to decision making, introduced errors and the erosion of corporate profitability.

“Reliance on ‘gut feel’ versus empirical information can work out for some companies however, it is worth remembering that in today’s fast-paced, highly competitive environment, erring on the side of financial conservatism is likely to put organisations at a competitive disadvantage if CFOs don’t have the right information to make important business decisions quickly. The solution to this is for IT departments to gift their CFOs a modern financial IT infrastructure including an ERP solution this Christmas, which delivers the right information, to the right people, at the right time.”

Lars Ola Petters, CEO of purchase-to-payment specialist Palette

“Invoice automation software should be high on Chief Financial Officers’ Christmas lists this year. With late payments still a major issue among SMEs in particular, purchase-to-payment technology automates Account Payable processes, speeding up transactions and reducing errors and delays that are caused by manual input. In turn this saves the costs associated with paper usage, manual data entry and chasing payments. Invoice automation solutions give organisations greater control, visibility and security over their purchase-to-payment processes.

“They also enable organisations to offer dynamic discounting to suppliers, improving the buyer-supplier relationship and encouraging faster payments. With more and more governments mandating the use of electronic invoicing, and more networks being set up, Chief Financial Officers should be asking their IT department for invoice automation technology this Christmas, if they haven’t already.”

Roy Russell, CEO, Ascertus

“A contract lifecycle management system! Undertaken manually, it’s a time-consuming, manpower-intensive, costly and error-ridden activity given the ever-growing complexity of the numerous business agreements with employees, suppliers, outsources, etc.  A contract isn’t a one-off activity. With CFOs under pressure to control costs, actively managing commercial agreements to maximise budgets is essential.  They need the ability to efficiently store, dynamically review and manage contracts.

“Timely visibility of the contracts coming up for renewal or end of life, along with capability to track the milestones outlined within every agreement is imperative. Inability to do so results in revenue loss and regulatory non-compliance. A CFO of a large franchised car dealer group in the UK mentioned that his department was finding it impossible to manage sales-related contracts without an automated system – the burden on the department was huge and no audit trail for compliance posed risk. This situation rings true for many corporates.”

Christmas treeChris Baker, MD of UK Enterprise, Concur

“One thing that CFOs should definitely be putting on their IT Christmas list is a system to modernise one of the most outdated back office jobs: the expense report. With storage in the cloud, web apps and portals common-place and smart technology running through the entirety of many businesses, those in the finance department must be tearing their hair out when processing Christmas time expenses through a pile of spreadsheets and stained receipts.

“By receiving an automated system under the Christmas tree, CFOs will be able to streamline this process, saving both time and hassle for the company as a whole when they are trying to expense the client entertainment that often comes around in December. It also helps with goodwill through the business when people can receive their expenses in time for that last minute Christmas shop!”

Alastair Kane, current UK and Ireland MD of Zayo Group

“Increased resilience of your network is critical to review for 2016. Downtime can impact companies dearly, so having an in-depth, cost effective disaster recovery and resiliency plan in place in case of a major outage or at periods when increasing load is expected on your network; this is very much needed in our current 24-7 global digital economy.

“Outsourcing your IT with suppliers who can scale and deliver and grow as you do is also increasingly important.  Finally, protecting and future-proofing your publicly available networks so you are provisioned and protected – ensure your networks are resilient and able to cope even in the face of external exploitation (as we’ve seen with TalkTalk) – this will likely continue into next year and years to follow.”

Ian Preston, VP sales UK & Ireland, Adaptive Insights

“As businesses become more and more data-driven, CFOs are no longer just in charge of the finances, they are increasingly pulling together a whole host of operational information from around the business. With the amount of data rapidly increasing, it is software that can combine all of this information into a single source to facilitate planning, budgeting and analytics, which CFOs should be wanting for Christmas. Only then will they be able to make sense of all that data. Whilst having a number of operational applications is unavoidable, it is no longer adequate to use spreadsheets as the analytical and planning tool of choice. CFOs need to ask their IT departments to look into cloud-based technologies that allow collaboration across departments and automatic aggregation–to reduce version errors, save time, and provide one source of data from which meaningful analysis can be conducted.”

software-pirateVincent Smyth, GM EMEA, Flexera Software

“How do we control the spend on our software licence estate?

“Most assume that software piracy is an isolated problem –  mostly perpetrated within countries with weak intellectual property enforcement or by unscrupulous criminals, But you may be surprised to learn that most of the world’s software pirates are in fact large Corporations who, without their knowledge, are the biggest users of unlicensed software. It’s costing the software industry $63bn a year, but costing the Corporations much more.

“Though unintentional, these ‘accidental’ pirates are helping themselves to billions of dollars of software licenses they don’t own, and don’t have the right to use. Most organisations don’t intend  to be out of compliance in their software use, or indeed to break the terms of their license agreements. But as businesses grow, acquire or merge with other businesses the risks of “unintentional software piracy” or license non-compliance grows. Understanding the financial risk associated with non-compliant use of software licenses is key, but taking control of the software estate to ensure future non-compliance is critical.”

Warren Weertman, senior counsel at BSA, The Software Alliance

“A software audit! Unlicensed software is still very much an issue for UK businesses – and it’s a little known fact that most FDs are responsible for software licensing in their organisations; nearly 85 percent according to BSA research. A staggering one in four computers in the UK possess unlicensed software, and a lack of compliance can lead to companies making large damage payments, something no CFO wants to find in their stocking!

“What’s more, BSA revealed a link between malware and unlicensed software earlier this year, with associated problems costing businesses nearly $500bn in 2014. A simple software audit can ensure your business is 100 percent compliant, and is an easy way to avert a potentially costly cybersecurity or legal crisis in 2016. Every CFO should have one on their Christmas list!

Martin Moran, SVP EMEA, InsideSales.com

“Surprises under the tree on Christmas morning are welcomed, but for CFOs, surprises in month-end or quarter-end results are not. This Christmas they should be asking Santa to give them confidence in their sales forecasting.

“A system that can increase forecast accuracy to determine the best time to close a deal offers unrivalled insight. Data science and automated processes are at the heart of this.

“If sales teams can successfully blend historical data with sales judgment and predictive analytics, they will be able to better forecast sales. This will enable greater success and efficiency – driving home sales for Christmas and the year round.”

Atchison Fraser, VP marketing, Xangati

“Data-driven analysis of all IT resources in terms of their overall capacity to deliver against SLAs and scale rapidly to take advantage of new business opportunities; and conversely, the same level of analysis summarising the overall efficiency of those same IT assets.”

Shy spokesperson, Hubble Team at Insightsoftware

“It’s no secret that the role of the CFO is changing significantly. And as they take on more responsibilities, they are being asked to work more closely with IT to align technology with business strategy. Conversely, CIOs and IT departments are being asked to do the same – creating the perfect opportunity for much needed collaboration and alliance.

“So this holiday season, every CFO should be asking their IT department for next generation performance technology that enables a self-service business. The more organizations can get the business involved in accessing their own data in real-time through interactive KPIs, metrics, visualizations, and dashboards, the less IT needs to be involved. So the business can answer the questions they need to drive performance, and IT can focus on more strategic initiatives. It’s a win-win – a Christmas miracle if you will.

Hamut Pascha, director global financial services EMEA, SimpliVity Corp

“CFOs should ask IT departments to demonstrate that IT really can align with business challenges, and not just a cost centre. I would argue that CFOs should ask their IT department to adopt hyperconverged infrastructure, because it can help IT departments justify investments that will provide agility, productivity and predictable ongoing cost savings.

“Why?

· It heavily automates the data centre. That frees up staff and significantly lowers cost of ownership, leaving more budget for shelved R&D which could generate incremental productivity and profit like Big Data or Mobile.

· It replaced multiple discrete components, contributing to CapEx savings. “Building block” scalability allows on-demand expansion and prevents over-purchasing for performance and capacity.

· It’s more transparent and easier to cost because provisioning is at the application / VM level and not servers, storage and other complexities that have dependencies and different refresh cycles!

cybercrimePaul Leybourne, head of sales at Vodat International

“Cybercrime is hitting many high profile companies and it looks like this will become an even bigger threat next year. The financial impact on the business is potentially devastating; compensation, loss of brand reputation etc –  the list is endless.  For this reason, CFOs should be asking the IT department to make their network as secure as possible.”

Mark Hoyland, COO at Blackbay

“A flexible, agile and secure IT infrastructure that easily enables BYOD capability to drive increased productivity and efficiency, at the same time as improving the bottom line, without breaking the bank. An infrastructure that allows employees, throughout the organisation, to fulfil their roles in an agile and flexible environment. Simply put a five star IT service at a one star cost!”

Martin Lucan, sales and marketing, Cultural Gravity

“Now that we have saved all this money with shiny technology, can you focus on the people and how they can make us more money. Start by understanding their needs, group by group, role by role then we can discuss what you need to do it.”

Andrew Atkinson, senior director, product management, Cloud Cruiser

“Please give me one of those magic snowballs that lets you see everything, so I can find out what IT and the business are doing with all of the money I am budgeting for them for cloud resources. I want to have a nice cup of cocoa in front of the fireplace, not sit around tearing my hair out because no one can tell me how they are spending what they already have and why they need more. I want visibility in my stocking, not hand-waving and excuses like lumps of coal!”

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