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3 IT Trends Every CFO Needs To Know

    
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Many different teams and with many different functions report to the Chief Financial Officer (CFO). He or she is often head of everything from investor relations and risk management to procurement and IT. With so many moving parts it can be hard to stay on top of the latest technology that can help make it all happen.

There are three trends in particular that CFOs need to watch closely over the coming months and years if they hope to keep their businesses on top:

1. Mobile
2. Big Data
3. Cloud Services and SaaS

These days companies are realizing that mobile is the interface of choice for a growing number of consumers.

New technologies available in Big Data are what collect the information available from mobile consumers and help turn it into insights that businesses can then act upon to innovate and grow.

And cloud services and software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies are becoming the tools of choice for optimizing both of those first two trends, because they allow for business file sharing, unified communications, decentralized teams and simplified cross-company collaboration.

A Look At Mobile

A survey published last year by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that over half of all cell phone owners use their phones to access the Internet.

From researching products before purchase to finding new businesses to eat and shop at, mobile phones have practically become a way of life for many consumers.

So how does that impact CFOs?

While the answer to that differs greatly from company to company and industry to industry, there are a few mobile trends that are affecting the majority of CFOs.

First, the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend that swept businesses by storm may soon be on its way back out, at least according to CFO.com. This is good news to many CFOs, since studies have shown companies rarely achieve the promised return on investment (ROI) from these plans. The CFO.com article goes on to explain that a “corporate-owned, personally-enabled” (COPE) policy is a better path forward, as “…the company’s total cost of ownership goes down because of volume deals on voice and data services and because the devices themselves are merely a one-time cost.”

Second, mobile is slowly revolutionizing the marketing industry. When most adult consumers in the US carry a computer in their pocket, it’s clear that mobile is an effective way to reach customers where they are with what they want. Companies who can figure out successful strategies for that have the potential to win big.

Third, mobile payments may be the biggest advancement in the financial technology sector since the creation of the credit card. While credit cards allowed consumers to buy on the go, companies like Square are now allowing businesses that same flexibility and mobility.

Drilling into Big Data

Big data was on the rise before mobile came on the scene, but mobile has caused the sheer amount of data available to increase exponentially. According to IBM, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are generated every day. This means that 90% of the data in the world today was created in just the past two years!

Companies today have more information on their customers and on consumers in general than ever before. That information can then be leveraged to offer more personalized services and products, to inform product development, and to increase the average sales of a given customer over his or her lifetime.

Consider how major retailers like Target are using this kind of information—they are breaking down the types of purchases that predict the life stage of customers and are then making other predictions about those customers and what they may want to buy.

At the shallowest level, it’s a matter of saying if customer A likes products X and Y then maybe if customer B buys X they’ll like Y also. Only big data means tracking many more facets of the purchasing process, offering much more detailed insights.

Covering the Cloud and SaaS

Put big data and mobile together, and the rise of cloud services and SaaS should be no surprise.

Consumers are also employees; when they rely on their mobile phones in their personal lives they are also going to want to adapt that to their work lives—thus the rise (and potential fall) of the BYOD trend, mentioned above.

With the rise of cloud services, the way work gets done is changing. It’s now easier than ever to work remotely, leveraging SaaS software from any device in any location just as easily as if one were in a “traditional” office. For the CFO with a more decentralized workforce, this can mean dramatic savings in fixed office and infrastructure costs. For example, in 2011 the electronics firm Plantronics removed the desks for a third of the firm’s staff of 500 at its Santa Cruz location, ordering those impacted to work at home or otherwise remotely.

SaaS is also altering the cost structure for technology and IT staff. Whereas in the past software applications were purchased in bulk, loaded onto computers, and upgraded and maintained over the course of multiple years by an IT staff, it’s now possible with SaaS to make smaller, monthly payments and to eliminate such IT costs.

Additionally, cloud services make it possible for real-time business file sharing to take place even when colleagues are working from multiple locations around the globe. That kind of collaboration has allowed companies to be more nimble and has accelerated growth of new companies who’ve learned to use it well.

The rapid growth of these three trends—mobile, big data and cloud services—has already revolutionized the business world; but CFOs should continue to follow these trends moving forward and stay actively engaged with the latest technologies in each to ensure innovation and growth within their companies.

How have these trends changed your business? Have you seen a greater impact from one than from the others? Let us know in the comments!