We've seen great leaps in technology over the past few years: enhanced smartphones, e-readers, and cloud computing are familiar to most of us. Soon, 3-D printing and driverless cars will join that list. These are all innovations that have - or soon will - revolutionise the way we live. But it's not just our personal lives impacted by these developments; our professional lives, too, have undergone huge change on the technology front. Individual employees can use the cloud to connect with each other even when working outside the office, and mobiles are today as ubiquitous as having a pen to write with.
On a larger level, corporations rely on technology to save money and encourage growth. A recent survey we conducted among senior finance executives shows that the vast majority plan to increase investments in technology in 2014 and nearly all recognize that proper investment in technology is a key contributor to company growth plans.
Of course, while company growth and saving money are the key drivers in investment, companies plan to use the technology in different ways: there is an almost even split between CFOs planning to use technology to cut costs versus using it to improve analytics and thereafter business effectiveness. There is also a split in terms of what technology is most important for investing: mobile, big data, and cloud technology.
One thing that CFOs have in common is the feeling that they lack a clear technology strategy. Surprisingly, in the field of mobile technology, less than a quarter of companies say they have a formal plan in place, and a significant number have an 'ad hoc approach' to investing in and using this technology. This is surprising given just how ubiquitous mobiles have become - if you're not reading this on your smartphone, I'd bet it's less than one metre away from you.
In truth, though, it's not that corporations aren't recognising the importance - nearly 80% of respondents said mobile technology will be a priority in the next year. It's just that they are unsure of the ways to properly manage investing in and using new technologies.
Similarly, big data and cloud technologies are top priorities. More and more of us are using the cloud to store and share music, photos, and documents. But business leaders seem to be struggling to clarify strategies on how best to capitalise on the benefits it can bring, and to decide how much of a role it should play in their technical infrastructures.
But the biggest barrier for some new technologies may not be lack of strategy; it may be lack of comfort. Nearly a quarter of finance executives say cloud technology is a priority, but security concerns make them hesitant to adopt it. Still, most CFOs said this will change soon - believing that within the next five years, data security concerns will become much less of an issue.
CFOs across the board recognise the power of technology on both a personal and professional level. Technology makes our personal lives easier - and benefits corporations. But without a plan in place, large corporations will find it incredibly difficult to use new technologies the way they're meant to be used: generating further insights and helping the company grow. Think of it as exchanging your old flip phone for a top-of-the-line smartphone: it's a huge step forward in terms of technology, but if you don't know how to use it, there's no actual benefit to making the switch.
It's very heartening to see that companies are planning to increase focus on technology. I look forward to seeing - with proper investment and some strategic planning - the innovations we'll see in the coming year.