Question for Today: Should IT take a seat at the table when discussing forecasts? In my opinion, as a Financial Controller with no IT expertise, it is a resounding yes.
In the first of our Question for Today series we asked Kerry O'Connor our Financial Controller, Should IT investment be part of strategic planning and forecasting? Here's what she has to say.
"Many companies believe IT investment is something that can either be put on the back burner until a later date or not even considered due to financial constraints. This is a very dangerous strategy; things have changed. There is not a single area in a business that IT does not touch these days, service delivery, marketing, sales, human resources, administration, it is truly embedded into the growth of a business. A business also needs to ensure it is innovating and growing."
A quote from Jon Madonna, CEO of KPMG Peat Marwick, is something that Concise hold very close to their hearts. It is pinned to the wall in their meeting room and is something everybody in the business considers on a daily basis:
“Nothing stops an organisation faster than people who believe the way they worked yesterday is the best way to work tomorrow. To succeed, not only do your people have to change the way they act, they have to change the way they think about the past.”
"Following this applies to everybody in an organisation from the MD downwards," says Kerry, "leadership begins at the top."
Effective planning markedly reduces the time required to develop a viewpoint of the future of your business and during these uncertain times, gives time to plan the growth of your business. Now more than ever it is critical that your plans and forecasts are up to date. Outdated technology will prevent you from being agile in responding to ever changing circumstances as I am sure many companies out there will have experienced.
Who would have thought, seven months ago, we would all be working from home. How many companies had the technology or an IT partner that could ensure this would happen seamlessly? "We are very lucky, Concise have ensured that their clients, that needed to, have been able to continue to operate their business remotely without interruption."
Kerry talks about how Concise were affected by the lockdown due to Covid, "We closed our offices in March and did not re-open until 1st September, our employees' safety was paramount. We supported our large client base without issue and have maintained our best in class customer satisfaction scores." Kerry says this is testament to the investment Concise have made in their infrastructure, technology and staff training. "Having IT investment in our forecasts, we have been able to invest in our people and technology and this has proven to be a reliable strategy."
Concise see this strategy as the way forward for businesses who want to survive unforeseen circumstances and still be able to see the opportunities of innovation and growth into the future. Companies have outsourced their IT to Concise who pride themselves in helping their clients plan for the needs of their business and growth that happens because of it.
Some questions to answer yourself
Kerry advises that considering these three questions can help plan carefully and effectively to gain the maximum return on your investment.
- Is your IT performance slowing down?
- Is your technology preventing you from being agile and responding to new opportunities?
- Is your ageing technology exposing you to security threats and potentially massive fines, loss of credibility and clients?
If you can answer the questions with a yes then its time to plan for strategic technology investment.
What About Forecasting?
Back to the original question then, should IT take a seat at the table when discussing forecasts? "Well, at Concise we have developed a trusted framework with dedicated Account Managers to discuss business strategy with clients, helping to ensure their IT investment budget is not a bottleneck. Which in turn provides a way forward to develop the business and their people, leaving the business leaders to concentrate on other areas - the business at hand."
Kerry also provides a small warning about forecasting, "Forecasts, however well formulated, can always go awry, believe me I know and having to report on the variances each month is a time consuming process. That is why Concise offer fixed price agreements for IT Support Services and fixed price implementations for one-off IT projects. The onus is then on us (Concise) as our client's preferred IT partner to ensure that every project is brought in on budget."
Concise can help you understand the pain points and those of your employees. We can discuss and plan your business needs going forward and ensure, as a partnership, we think critically about the needs of your business and plan for your future success.
So does IT need a seat at the table? "Yes it definitely does….in reality to be successful, IT needs to be head of the table."
- IT is embedded in every part of a company from production to HR. Failing technology increases downtime and reduces employee productivity. Investing in IT at the right time on the right things can help a business move forward through tough times
- Poor performing IT can hold you back from opportunities, including attracting new talent and new business. If you have old hardware and software but want to grow its not going to attract the right talent to the job.
- Having an IT strategy in place for your business helps makes forecasting simpler, Concise can help you with that - planning for IT investment can help spread the cost of what could be a heavy lift.
- Ageing technology can ultimately leave you open to cyber crime. It goes without saying if the technology you use every day is not supported by the manufacturer you are leaving your business vulnerable to cyber crime.
- In uncertain times having the technology to help your business be agile and easily adapt to circumstances is important. We don't know when another 'force majeure' could occur, but by forecasting for the future of the business can keep us in good stead.
Kerry O'Connor is Financial Controller at Concise Technologies and has been with the company for 17 years.