Technology that inspires industry change is often labeled disruptive. But don’t let the term scare you: It simply implies that innovation will replace and improve dated processes. Early adopters of disruptive technologies can gain a competitive advantage over rivals who fail to innovate as quickly. For CFOs and financial professionals equipped with a dependable sense of logic and figures, adopting new technology can prove to be both feasible and invaluable.
Deciding to implement new technologies requires preparation and education. With Q4 approaching, we’ve helped identify new finance technologies that should catch a CFO or financial professional’s eye. Depending on company budgets and resources, any one of these technologies can improve productivity and lead to increased revenue.
In the U.S., users spend more time online using a mobile device compared to a computer. This means mobile optimization cannot be ignored. Whether it is mobile apps to facilitate sales or support solutions, being mobile-ready is no longer an option for many companies, but a requirement. Companies seeking to reap the benefits of mobile customers should have a mobile-ready website, compatible shopping cart, and secure payment gateway.
How will your company cater to mobile users?
- Responsive Design – This means your website, shopping cart, and payment options are all designed to fit on an Internet-enabled portable device, regardless of screen size. Projects of this nature can be inexpensive — from free to less than $200 — if your site is based on WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or other widely available CMS systems. You can also install an add-on — which can solve this problem by detecting your site visitors’ devices and resizing accordingly — or install a responsive design theme — which resizes the design elements while retaining site content and features.
- Apps – If your company needs custom-designed app solutions for multiple platforms (iOS, Android, etc.), it can be a costly exercise. Luckily, you can obtain a general estimate. In most cases, companies do not need their own proprietary app, with their chosen software and service providers (including payment gateways) already having apps available to suit all desired platforms.
- Payment gateways – Storing customer information and billing data on your own servers means your company is responsible for the management and security of that data, including compliance with relevant regulations, such as PCI-DSS. Some companies prefer to allow third parties like PayPal and Stripe to store the data, making them responsible for all billing data and related regulatory requirements. When deciding on payment solutions, weigh the cost of a merchant account against payment gateways. For brick and mortar stores where POS systems are in use, you many need a hybrid of multiple payment gateways.
The ability to brainstorm with internal and external stakeholders in a collaborative environment is an important consideration. The environment needs security to prevent intellectual property loss, while also providing a stakeholder-only solution that allows easy permission-based sharing of documents. Ideally, the solution will consider data privacy and e-discovery in the event of future litigation.
Perhaps the best example of company social collaboration in practice is Intel’s platform solution for its global workforce, allowing employees to submit ideas, respond to brainstorming sessions, and receive company updates. Most importantly, Intel tailored its solution to suit business objectives, with dedicated sales channels and integration with other enterprise tools, such as CRM software.
While your company may not have the resources for a dedicated platform development, there are other options. Depending on requirements, you could use Slack which includes several security features, including data encryption in transit and at rest, for basic collaboration; or, if the use of third-party servers deters you, there are several platform solutions that can be deployed on your own servers.
When a social collaboration solution is in place, the CFO no longer needs to chase other departments around for input.
Big Data and Analytics
When primary business objectives are identified, it is time to look at the data obtained by your company. Big data is more accurately defined as the capture of structured data (from relational databases such as SQL) and unstructured data (from social media, support tickets or product and service reviews). All structured and unstructured data is stored for later analysis, revealing patterns, trends, and associations that are not discoverable with typical methods like those used in Excel, Access, or SQL.
Your aim is to leverage data in a way that provides valuable insights to define the future direction of your company, whether in sales, marketing, or investment. In most cases, the volumes of data involved will not require infrastructure investment, but when volumes are too large to handle, you can consider investing in a big data framework, utilizing cloud-based resources like Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure.
Big data requires analytics to extract the information necessary to aid decision-making. Selecting your data analytics platform or software is a vital choice and will reflect the data elements you decide to focus on and the resources available.
If you have an in-house team with expertise in big data analytics and the ability to customize algorithms as you need them, then a platform is the answer. But few companies have such employees, and given that there is a global skill shortage for data scientists, an off-the-shelf software solution could be the interim answer.
Business Intelligence (BI)
Having nothing to do with the IQ of your business, BI refers to the use of data in an environment seeking to figure out what’s going to happen next. Like data analytics, existing data is used to provide insights, but with one important difference: The insights gained do not reflect existing transactions, but instead are used to foresee future transactions. For example, you can use big data to capture all the information about a product from your sales channels, social media, and websites, and then utilize pattern analytics to forecast a sales scenario or strategy about that product.
BI expenses vary. If you want to develop solutions from the ground up, then it will be more costly compared to other options, like Amazon QuickSight or Yellowfin, which are more affordable.
Accounts Payable (AP) and Payment Automation
AP Automation eliminates repetitive or time-consuming manual tasks in the AP process. Automating the accounts payable and payment processes in your company offers many advantages, but notably it cuts down processing time and reduces check fraud. In addition, payments are received promptly and finance professionals do not have to waste hours processing stacks of unsigned checks for suppliers and service providers.
AP automation does not require infrastructure changes; it is cloud-based and can be accessed from anywhere via an Internet-enabled device. Going digital with AP Automation also eliminates reliance on paper documents, and the resulting cost-savings are impressive. AP Automation also allows multiple methods for receiving invoices — including paper invoices for those who have resisted digital transformation.
The cost of implementing AP Automation can vary depending on the level of transaction complexity within your business.
Make a Decision
Consider these the first steps in embracing disruptive technology. From the efficiency of AP automation to nuanced data analytics and forecasting, any one of these technologies can improve your business processes and adapt you to the modern age. By setting realistic timelines, goals, and budgets, you can use disruptive technologies to gain that needed edge and prepare your company for the future.