Calling all CFOs: Why connecting with a toothbrush might just be worth it

Until recently, technology vendors and the companies that buy their wares have focused largely on what the technology does – what features it has, the capabilities it can offer. But it’s no longer about what technology can do, it’s about what it can enable, says Tony Kontzer, a business and technology writer.

The fact that a manufacturer can communicate with a toothbrush may represent technological wizardry. However, it’s the knowledge the company can collect from the resulting data stream — such as how many brushings a customer can get out of a single toothbrush — that brings real value.

Looking through the digital transformation lens

Too often, technology buyers have looked to impress with bells and whistles, when what’s really needed are positive financial outcomes. The act of undergoing digital transformation now takes on a completely different context.

We don’t transform so that we can add technological capabilities, we transform so we can become more agile and more efficient. We transform to create better customer experiences, which can lead to increased profitability. We transform to make our businesses stronger, not just to create a splashier IT narrative. All technology investments today should be viewed through this lens.

Enterprise technology vendors should not be in business simply to make great technology, but should help customers tap into the latest technologies to take their businesses to another level. They need to understand that no matter how cool the products and solutions are, if they’re not making an economic contribution that helps an organisation achieve a vision or meet its mission, then the company might as well carry on making cat food in the same way that it always did.

CFOs pivotal in making digital transformation transform the business

This is why ALE, a global communications technology vendor, has increased its effort to speak directly to CFOs. Often tasked with overseeing IT organisations to ensure that technology investments bring real bottom-line value, CFOs are unimpressed with the coolness factor. They are skeptics who look past the hype and go straight to the value a technology can deliver. No value, no purchase.

It is for this reason that CFOs have become integral to the process of digital transformation. It is all too easy for a company looking to inject digital capabilities into its operations to do so merely based on those capabilities themselves. Oooh, look, we can move our infrastructure assets to the cloud and cut our CapEx costs! We can extend our customer-facing processes to mobile platforms! We can invest in IoT sensors for all of our warehouses and keep a closer eye on our products!

Tony Kontzer

While all of these moves may make perfect economic sense, companies frequently jump into them before they’ve properly analysed the impact they will deliver. They fail to determine whether a particular technology, regardless how impressive it is, is the right match for their transformation effort.

And if customers make ill-advised investments in the technologies offered and discover too late that the payoff isn’t there, everyone loses. The customer spends money unnecessarily and ends up with a bad taste in their mouth. Vendors must make sure that they do not trade a long-term relationship for a short-term sale.

Customers need to be confident that their investments in cutting edge network solutions — from Unified Communications to Smart Analytics to infrastructure security services — will truly make their businesses stronger, which is why CFOs and other high-level decision-makers are included early in the process.

Not all roads lead to Rome

If your organisation is considering going down a path to digital transformation, you want that path to improve your business, not simply expand your IT footprint. Pick a company that will work with you to make sure those two objectives are aligned, and that your digital transformation investments are just that: Investments, not simply expenditures.

The author of this blog is Tony Kontzer, a business and technology writer

About the author:

Tony Kontzer has been writing about technology and business for nearly 20 years and currently freelances from his home in the San Francisco Bay area community of Albany. A 1988 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism, Tony spends his spare time relaxing with his wife, playing with his three sons, tinkering around his home, and, when time allows, playing saxophone and travelling.

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