Balancing Technology Cost and Need

By Tom Ruchalski, CFO, Skyline Windows

Tom Ruchalski, CFO, Skyline Windows

As with large organizations, most small to mid-market firms have to deal with the need to be highly visible to their customers through a robust website, social media and the like. This is further compounded by the demands to use technology to generally improve productivity and possibly more importantly, to attract talent that demands these ever evolving tools. Cost can accumulate very quickly if the CFO does not have the right resources to manage this evolving technology landscape.

CFO’s are called to be many things in today’s business environment. With so many demands on their time a focused bench is critical to his/hers and the firm’s success.

At best, many small to mid-market firms rely on one or two employees to handle their technology needs. On the surface this may appear to be efficient relative to the size of the organization. The reality is that technology departments need to handle software, hardware, disaster recovery support and new technology. It is very difficult to find expertise in these diverse areas in a small staff. The results can put the business in jeopardy on many points of the spectrum. 

A strong hardware team may push the organization to buy more equipment than is needed compared to a team that is more risk adverse and will avoid the many opportunities to drive efficiency across the firm or attract the type of talent that will lead the firm in the future. 

A hardware driven team could for example, make a strong case for local servers.  It would make all the sense in the world from a cost prospective until a flood damages all the servers along with the tape back-ups that are stored onsite. A software driven team could jump into unnecessary upgrades to current packages, risking the V1 pitfalls and putting the rest of the organization in a position to participate in testing and earning the new version. Or they could run to the latest version of environment control products to make their jobs easier.

A Bring Your Own Device solution provide some relief to hardware advances. The flip side is a BYOD policy that opens up many control issues that companies need to address head on.

• What is to be done to protect company data on the device?
• Who is responsible for the data while it resides on the device?
• Can company data be wiped off the devise?

“Technology outsourcing is a potential solution to the dilemma small to mid-market CFO’s find themselves in when they are confronted with the tasks of managing the world of technology”

You get the picture, it’s not straight forward and someone needs to plan for many outcomes and execute the plan when they occur–does the CFO have the time to attend to this?

Putting your major processes in the Cloud is the current in thing to do. Don’t get me wrong, it likely is for many firms! The trick is to do it correctly for the systems that would provide a benefit to users and the bottom line. Some key decisions to be made are:

• The proper selection of processes to insure value
• Determining the level of redundancy the firm requires
• Agreeing on the metrics the provider is willing to live by
• Vetting the provider to insure what is promised is delivered

Technology outsourcing is a potential solution to the dilemma small to mid-market CFO’s find themselves in when they are confronted with the tasks of managing the world  of  technology. With the right outsourcing team many management challenges can be consolidated without expertise degradation. As with vetting Cloud providers it is critical to know whom you are partnering with and what services align with the services you need to purchase.

The small to mid-market CFO has to start a technology review with a strategic assessment of the firm’s needs. This assessment needs to be refined to address

• Benefits of in-house or IT partner
• A desire to be cutting edge
• The ability of the firm to embrace change
• The firm’s tolerance  for risk

The need to manage the bottom line is critical, but growth is an equal part of the equation the CFO is required to deliver. The right decisions will strike the right balance between adding IT costs to achieve goals and to support the people who rely on the company for their individual success.

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