A CFO Grapples with the Challenges of Technology at Small Businesses

The IT function continues the challenge of becoming a strategic player in small companies. I’ve been an advocate of small companies using technology for their strategic advantage. However, most small biz owners aren’t all that tech savvy, and if they are, they don’t hold IT in high regard. Times have changed. Today’s IT function no longer consists of young geeks wearing funny glasses and talking a funny language (IT speak).

If used right, IT can be a competitive weapon for small biz owners. Even if you’re a software company, don’t make the mistake of using those same people to manage your information infrastructure – it’s not in their domain. I’ve had software biz owners tell me those people are their tech department, and I have said “No, it’s not. The skills and experiences of software developers are so different, it’s like equating a bank teller to a loan officer. And just saying, ‘give that loan restructuring issue to the teller.’ ”

Small business owners have so many options on how to leverage information technology. From a CFO’s perspective, many companies still look at IT as a cost, a necessary cash outflow that must be paid for the company to operate. Especially small businesses.

But in so many industries, IT can have such a great impact on growth and success and profitability, a biz owner would be remiss to NOT focus on how much IT can cause them to out-compete in their market. For example, how does the marketing department prepare programs to do deep dives into the results of their campaigns? The latest tools are phenomenally inexpensive even for small companies, yet so powerful. If the small biz owner is afraid to spend the money on IT, and only focused on selling or marketing their products/services, they’ll continue with less than stellar financial performance, in most cases.

These days “the cloud” is a big buzzword. Who cares? As the CFO for multiple companies, I do. But first because it can save a small/mid business lots of money. If used right. And my client’s companies don’t have to buy/lease, design, install, configure, operate and troubleshoot new systems when they leverage the latest in IT deployments. Unless you’re an IT vendor, then IT is not a core competency that will enable you to compete in your targeted markets. So why have the headaches when you can get peace of mind knowing a company that does IT every day? One that becomes a partner with your company and collaborates to help you make strategic decisions that will help your company be more successful and make more money.

I was amazed a couple months ago when I went into a new client’s building, and found the servers and desktops/laptops were so old they could barely do their work. They certainly couldn’t do the books very fast, and collaboration of the 40 employees was old school – just phone and email.

In the year 2011 there is so much productivity improving technology it can make your head spin. What biz owner wants to keep up with all that? A CFO at a small business should help drive the top line and competitiveness, not just focus on cost savings. The small business owner can open up his/her mind and see what’s possible to focus his/her time on the things that will grow a company, and let the advantages of IT become part of the strategic decisions.

Author Bio:

Marty Koenig is Founder and CEO of CxO To Go LLC. He loves what he does for a living, because he gets to work with so many great, world-changing people and help them succeed in their business. His team is dedicated to building financial, operational, strategic, technological excellence for small/mid size business owners and entrepreneurs. Marty has over 29 years of diversified experience in private and public companies, from startups and mid-size firms to multinational Fortune 30 companies including AT&T, General Electric, NCR Corporation and StorageTek. Marty performs in roles such as CFO, COO, COO and CIO for his private clients. Marty was nominated for the Denver Business Journal 2011 CFO of the Year. Marty is an author, educator, and speaker. See his and his partner’s recent books at Buchanan Publishing or visit www.cxotogo.com. Read his professional blog at www.martykoenig.com. His private email is mkoenig@cxotogo.com.

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  • Barry Price

    Marty, you are definitely onto the next disruptive force in IT and computing. After recently launched an all cloud eLearning campus and converting the college to Google Apps – I know the power of the cloud! Much faster deliver, far less development costs, full featured applications and very profitable business. To say nothing of the savings in capital expenses and much better cashflow management – good CFO issues of particular relevance to cloud computing. There are certainly valid security, skepticism and other concerns with cloud computing – but these are being resolved as the industry understands and addresses busieness needs. All small businesses should seriously be using or considering cloud based IT. They have to if their IT team is really focused on delivering the cost savings, business process efficiency and profitable competitive advantage all companies need.Barry PriceGAFYD.net = Google Apps For Your Domain