7 Steps for Assessing Your Company’s Technology Needs
Here’s what to consider when trying to position your organization to capitalize on new technologies.
Tina Golsch, CPA, MBA
Enterprise Finance Services, Boeing
All we hear about lately in accounting and finance is how new technologies and different
software and applications are going to reshape our finance departments, functions, and
organizational roles. While this is proving to be true in many ways, and as exciting (or
frightening) as that may be, a lot needs to be considered before implementing a new
enterprise-wide technology besides the trendy acronyms — think AI, CRM, ERP, IoT, ML,
RPA — being thrown at us daily.
It’s great that we have more tools available to us today than ever to help drive our
organizations forward, but as strategic as we must be with our business finance decisions,
we must be as strategic with our technology choices. So, as you’re likely to be tasked with
evaluating the state of your organization’s technology and how it can be improved to drive
better business performance, here are some points to consider that will help you put your
organization in a strategic position to take advantage of any new technologies your
organization decides to pursue.
Think about the pain points first.
Sales pitches and marketing copy will make you think
every new technology will solve all your business woes. Just because a technology sounds
good doesn’t mean you need it. Listen to and document the pain points of your technology
users. What are the great ideas you or they have that just aren’t feasible with your existing
solutions? Can this new technology help those ideas be realized? Also consider the time
and resources that are expended month after month on manual tasks or supplementing
existing business processes because your current technology does not fully support your
needs or allow for automation.
Every company, even though it might be like others in some respects,
is unlike any other because of its processes and human capital. Therefore, each company’s
technology needs and requirements differ dramatically. As you assess the pain points
identified in your organization, dig deeper into how technology may make your processes
more efficient. Pay particular attention to the processes that require a lot of time from your
users or cause delays over and over again. Generally, the more users impacted and the
more repetitious a process, the more leverage you will gain from technology that automates
Anecdotally, there will always be tales of technology problem areas in your organization,
but as a finance leader, you are in a position to assess which technologies are going to
touch the most people and help drive organizational and bottom line improvements.
Mind the pace of change.
You’ve likely heard several times now that the pace of change
will never be slower than it is today. That doesn’t mean you should rush through a
technology change in an attempt to keep up. While it might be tempting when looking
at new applications to implement everything immediately, this can overwhelm and
exhaust both your users and your IT team. Organizations can only absorb a certain
amount of change in a given time and you want your users to accept and be excited
about the new application. Further, maintaining roadmaps identifying when applications were implemented, upgraded, when they might be in danger of
obsolescence, the number of users impacted, and what benefits
you could gain from upgrading or changing can help provide a
framework for identifying which applications or technologies
should be prioritized by your organization. Knowing when major
upgrades are supposed to happen to which technologies is key to
Think long term.
Your roadmap can also help you identify other
relevant criteria in your technology timeline, like, is this an
application that you plan to keep only two years, or is it something
that you will need to maintain for 10 years? Knowing this will help
determine the level of investment and development appropriate
for the lifespan of the technology. For instance, if you are only going
to support an application for the next two years because another
change is coming down the road, does it really make sense if it
takes a whole year to fully customize, develop, and implement? If
you intend to keep the application for 10 years, are you going to be
able to update or customize areas to adapt to any foreseen (or
unforeseen) business changes?
Define your business and technology requirements and ensure
you have the right stakeholders involved.
Specifying all your
organization’s requirements is imperative to ensuring that you are
looking for and selecting the most appropriate technology.
Discovering midstream during implementation that an application
cannot fulfill a key business requirement can throw your whole
project off plan, impacting users’ enthusiasm and morale and
creating unnecessary costs and delays.
Account for customization.
If customization is a forbidden word
when it comes to technology, skip this step. Otherwise, it is critical
to determine if customization is necessary and then whether it can
be done by your own developers or if it will be led by the
technology’s vendor. In either case, internal resources with the skills
and expertise to guide the customization and resulting business
processes are integral. Again, think long term and consider whether
necessary future updates, patches, or operating system changes
from the vendor could cause issues with your customizations.
Another thing to consider prior to starting a new technology
development project, especially if your organization has engaged
in significant automation and customization efforts to reduce
manual effort, is whether the human talent for those business
processes still exist internally. Who is going to ensure the
technology is functioning without errors or respond when
troubleshooting is necessary?
Strategize your data conversion.
Changing ERP, CRM, tax, or other
software solutions, or moving from physical data storage to
digitized cloud back-ups, might require vast data conversions that
could leave you feeling like you’re rewriting history. If this is the
case with your company, know ahead of time how far back you
need to go, the level of detail and accuracy required, and how you
will protect the data in case something goes wrong in conversion.
When planning for a conversion, try to bring over only as much data
as necessary. If you must tie back transactions for the last five years,
for example, recognize ahead of time that it will require significant
effort and resources and will impact your implementation timeline.
From prioritizing which applications are most critical to update, to
ensuring successful implementation that remains on schedule, on
budget, and within the originally defined scope, considering all
these items will help you when assessing your current and
new technology needs. Better, you’ll come away with a framework
for smooth, surprise-free upgrades that leave you and your