At first glance, finance leaders and Information Technology (IT) departments might not seem like two sides of the same coin. While one talks mostly in dollars and cents, the other speaks in programs, algorithms and codes. Despite differences, the work of finance and technology often intersects, meaning that CFOs have an investment in the workings of IT departments — literally. IT spending is often sizable and closely tracked for return on investment as part of larger financial strategies. What’s more, with the digital transformation well underway, finance leaders have a vested interest in companies’ technological bandwidth. How, then, can CFOs free up IT time to make way for the digital revolution?
IT + CFO: A Match Made in the Digital Transformation
The digital transformation is humming along, with finance leaders turning to automation to streamline accounts payable, integrate accounting standard updates, and more. According to Accounting Today, 93% of CFOs envision a more digital, data-driven future. Business process automation in finance and accounting has shifted from a perk to a must-have, in part out of a need for real-time business data. Ninety-nine percent of CFOs for large companies call real-time data “critical,” and 44% plan to transition “nearly all” finance processes and operations to real time in the next several years.
But, the growing need for IT collaboration comes at a time when technology professionals are in short order. This year, the unemployment rate for workers in the technology sector has been as low as 1.3%. That means that to fuel necessary digital shifts, leaders have to reckon with a double-punch. They must maintain their existing IT workforce in the middle of the Great Resignation and find a way to free up the time necessary to promote focus on projects that add value – and open doors to a larger customer base.
Unlocking Bandwidth for Digital Growth
In other words, to allow IT to move from putting out fires to looking into the future – implementing and maintaining new software, managing automations and instituting robotic process (and ensuring all of it is secured against cyberthreats) – you’ll need to unlock capacity. Here, we review three strategies for making room for digital innovation and growth in your IT Department.
1. Revisit Online Meetings
Over the last two years, the average time spent in meetings jumped 7.3 hours per week, from 14.2 hours to 21.5 hours. That means, over half of employees’ time is taken up with time that can’t be devoted to pushing projects forward. Thirty percent of weekly work time is spent attending virtual meetings in particular. For IT professionals, this represents a double tax on their time. While they might find their own calendars eaten up by calendar invites, they also have to attend to the technological needs of a workforce increasingly dependent on virtual platforms for real-time conversation.
There are some solutions to consider, such as developing “no-meeting days,” which have profound effects when it comes to communication, engagement, autonomy and productivity. Another option: establish communication practices that prioritize email and alternate channels (Slack, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to allow for more focused work time – both for IT professionals and the employees they serve.
2. Review IT Automation Opportunities
Automation opportunities exist beyond finance and accounting. IT automation, often referred to as infrastructure automation, is the use of software to create repeatable instructions and processes to replace or reduce human interaction with IT systems – and is key both for IT optimization and for making sure the digital transformation is integrated across all aspects of business.
One of the simplest automation opportunities to explore for any IT group should be application programming interfaces (APIs). API integrations allow companies to automate tasks by integrating their existing in-house software with third-party, cloud-hosted applications – often efficiently and at a low price. Using API, new application components can be incorporated into a company’s existing architecture, meaning third-party technologies, tool and software are plugged in and ready to use with minimal effort. The investment in APIs has exploded, with over $2 billion invested in recent years.
3. Reduce Tasks That Don’t Add Value
According to the Cynetia Institute’s State of Third Party Risk Management survey, 84% of companies utilize security questionnaires to evaluate the IT health of organizations with which they work. These questionnaires are often lengthy, with the Cynetia Institute reporting 70.5% of questionnaires falling in the range of 11-100 questions, and about 20% including over 100. Each question may necessitate involvement and coordination between multiple departments potentially including IT, Human Resources and legal consultation.
Third party risk management (TPRM) professionals tasked with identifying and reducing risks rarely value these surveys, despite the time required to complete them – only about 34% of TPRM professionals find questionnaire responses believable.
If you are trying to gain the confidence of an important vendor or customer, consider a third-party assessment of IT health. A System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2 report can serve as a demonstration of your preparedness in the face of threats and help ensure that controls and protocols are in place to protect your business. By alleviating the need for IT to complete time-consuming, and potentially less-than-helpful, questionnaires a SOC2 report can free up bandwidth to drive your company into the future.
For more information on how to unlock the full potential of your IT department – and your business, contact us here.
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