Technology Investment in 2014
The importance of technology cannot be understated in today’s economy – whether using the cloud to connect with employees working outside the office, or using video-conferencing to cut costs, technology is something all companies need to consider when planning investment strategies for next year.
I’m not alone in thinking this. We recently commissioned a study that showed 76 per cent of senior finance executives plan to increase investments in technology next year, which should be heartening for the sector. Proper investment in technology is widely recognised as a key contributor to company growth plans. Of course, companies plan to use the technology in different ways: nearly half of the CFOs surveyed said they plan to use technology to cut costs, while most of the remainder will rely on data insights to improve analytical effectiveness.
Still, there are some grey areas in how they’ll manage this. While nearly everyone surveyed agreed on the need to invest more in technology in the year ahead, the findings also show few companies have a defined strategy in place for this investment. In short, finance executives know investment in technology is important; they just aren’t sure how to go about it.
A call for clearer mobile strategy
Mobile innovation is certainly a priority for finance executives, and nearly 80 per cent recognise the need to make better use of mobile technology over the next year. Their goals for doing so are multiple and range from providing finance and business users with better query and retrieval capabilities, up-to-the-minute access to data and to sharing data effectively. All of which enables executives to make better real-time decisions and in any location.
However, there is a discrepancy between companies in how best to achieve these goals. Less than a quarter report having a formal plan in place for deploying mobile technology in 2014. Eleven per cent are unsure as to their company’s broad strategy for deploying mobile technology next year. And perhaps most startlingly, a significant proportion of the finance community – 32 per cent – report having an “ad hoc approach” to deploying mobile technology.
Big data = big potential
Similarly, while the importance of big data is recognised, business leaders are still struggling to clarify their strategy on how best to capitalise on the benefits it can bring, and to decide how much of a role it should play in their technical infrastructure.
Here again, the numbers indicate finance executives recognise the need for investing in big data technology but are unsure of the best way to use it: more than half will seek to gain a competitive advantage by mastering big data analytics in 2014, but only 37 per cent are confident enough to attempt analysing the data in-house.
Cloudy horizons for now
Mobile and big data are the primary technologies CFOs will focus on in 2014. But for 22 per cent of finance executives, cloud technology is also a top-three priority for next year. However, they are hesitant to adopt the technology due to security concerns. Despite these concerns, change is on the horizon. Just over half of CFOs believe data security concerns will stop posing a barrier to adoption of cloud technology in five years’ time. This is a good sign for technology growth, as long as companies develop strategies for using it.
Technology sans strategy
Like mobile, CFOs across the board recognise the power of data, and the benefits it can bring, but lack a clear strategy. A plan to properly manage data is of critical importance. Without one, it is incredibly difficult to use new technologies the way they’re meant to be used: generating further insights and helping the company grow.
It’s very heartening to see that companies are planning to increase focus on technology. I look forward to seeing – with proper investment and some strategic planning – the innovations we’ll see in the coming year.
About the Author
Brendan Walsh is the Senior Vice President and General Manager for American Express Global Corporate Payments, Europe. He is responsible for the European Commercial Card business across 17 markets.