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What Every CFO Must Invest In First, For the Success of Finance Technology in 2020

In a previous post, we discussed a data architecture construct for the Finance Technology Success in 2020. It is the Class-N ODS for digital age success.

But, where should the investment begin? If you are a CFO, or for that matter any responsible leader intent on driving digital transformation successfully, where would you begin?

Would you start with new technology, new people, both or something else?

The real question is this.

Would you create certainty or uncertainty?

Let’s look at a real life example.

A global furniture brand headquartered in Europe, had invested around $350 million on a cloud infrastructure solution. The total digitalisation investment was planned for around $1.5 billion. Needless to say, the senior management teams were terribly nervous about the their ability to demonstrate the return on that investment quantum of investment. A chief digital officer was engaged too.

To begin with, the global enterprise did not have a data strategy for their digital transformation journey. Added to this, the global giant was saddled with a legacy application landscape that was compounded by an equally “rigid” legacy culture. If the technical debt was one headache to the Chief Information Officer, an underprepared or an un-prepared workforce was a matter of worry to every senior leader in the organisation.

A necessary and an urgent digital transformation effort was being driven by a very complex-multi-vendor arrangement.

Accountability as well as leadership was either limited or non-existent. While there was a very strong heritage of this founder influenced organisation, digital transformation seemed to be something, which the organisation was not prepared for at all. Chaos seemed to be an acceptable normal.

The good news though, was that there was a very strong culture and value system in the organisation. With this strong culture came a “will” to succeed under the most trying circumstance, regardless of the complexity of the undertaking.

But, the question is – would “will”alone be sufficient if the “skill” levels are low, especially, if the undertaking is as critical as a digital transformation endeavour? A complex undertaking that needs a whole new competency, one which we have not needed before.

In my book, The Billion Dollar Byte, I term this competency as “datapreneurship”. In fact, I am even including this in a International Human Resource Management program at the ZHAW in Switzerland, only because the combination of data and people is the most potent force available to any enterprise in the digital age.

CEB Global, a subsidiary of Gartner Inc, in its white paper titled, “Finance Technology 2020 – New Approaches to Solving the Four Biggest Challenges to Finance Technology Success in 2020”. Identifies four challenges for the success of finance in 2020. They are:

  1. Distributed Technology
  2. The End of Traditional Hierarchies
  3. Total Data Reliance
  4. Tech Skill Premium

Invest in your people first, and they will find you the tools. The other way around could prove expensive…

Before even considering a dollar to invest in glossy tools and technologies, every organisation, must invest in its own people. Investing in the “rolce royce” of technology is certainly less fruitful than investing in your own people. When competent people make decisions, the right technology will follow anyway. But, usually not the other way round.