Whether you’re a new CFO or have been at the same company for 10 or even 20 years, the conundrum is the same and recognized across industries — your company needs to modernize by adopting new technology and becoming more data-driven, but your leadership team is not on board. Or perhaps a few leaders understand the need but the rest are unconvinced that the costs or challenges to implement outweigh the benefits. Sound familiar?
As a CFO in the construction space, which is typically seen as a technology laggard, I understand this situation all too well. I regularly converse with other CFOs who understand the critical role technology and data can play for their company, particularly as they move from antiquated analog systems to data-driven enterprises. However, more often than not, they have to overcome monumental hurdles upselling this to their leadership teams, which takes time and a lot of effort.
If you’ve found yourself in this position or see it looming on the horizon, read on for tips on how to convince a reluctant leadership team that technology investment will ensure that your business not only survives, but thrives well into the future.
Understand Your Role as CFO
While it may seem obvious, it’s vital that all CFOs understand that a fundamental part of their job is to scan the landscape in search of new technologies, processes and implementations that will enable their company to succeed long term. You simply can’t stay put anymore, at least not for long. Technological evolution is a driving factor towards staying competitive in the marketplace, which ultimately fuels your role in ensuring the company’s success.
Understanding and accepting the role you play in helping your company adopt technology is an important first step for all CFOs to comprehend, as it instills the confidence you need to be a changemaker in your organization—it’s not a voluntary ‘good to have’ side job, but a critical responsibility. If you don’t have the confidence to drive an enterprise-wide strategy, it will show and your leadership won’t follow suit. Evaluating your own capacity to drive new technology adoption is a vital, but often overlooked role that a CFO plays.
Do Your Technology Research
Technology adoption is a major decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s typically only implemented if it can give you something you don’t already have or take away pain points that are causing inefficiencies, redundancies or negatively impacting your profits. Plus, new technology costs money to purchase and time to implement, which will inherently impact employees across your organization.
Because of that, it’s important to do as much research as you can on the tech solutions you are evaluating by thoroughly learning about the full capabilities the vendor provides, checking references and talking to real customers about their experience before signing on. Some baseline questions to ask might include:
• Can you walk me through your implementation process?
• What does your support and maintenance structure look like?
• Can you show me how my teams will benefit from using the software, or can we try it out ourselves?
• How exactly will my data and workflows be hosted and how strong are your data security measures?
• Can you provide references from similar peer companies that are successfully using your product?
• How was your purchase and implementation experience?
• Is the vendor reliable and responsive when you have issues beyond implementation?
• Did you achieve the benefits you expected when you made the purchase?
These are just a sample of literally hundreds of questions you should have prepared beforehand. This is your chance to ask those questions and make sure you’re getting real answers. While tedious to do, it’s essential to the overall process as it will arm you with anecdotal evidence should your leadership team have questions and can be used to assuage any concerns well ahead of signing on the dotted line.
But staying on top of technology shouldn’t occur only when you have a need. The best CFOs are proactively staying abreast of the latest technology advancements at all times, looking for new ways to innovate and gain competitive advantages in their fields.
Evaluate Your Own People and Teams
Just as you did research on the product, so must you do research on the people who will ultimately buy in to the product. From your seat, purchasing a new technology solution might be a no brainer, but will it be the right solution for everyone? You must build strong relationships with each member of your leadership team and understand their needs and fears so that you can articulate the low risk benefits they will receive and build a consensus among the group.
For the head of sales, this could equate to the generation of more sales leads but not at the risk of dampening sales productivity during implementation. The COO will need to understand that disparate systems are creating operational inefficiencies and a more integrated tech system will streamline workflow and enable cross-departmental collaboration. The CEO will want a high-level 365 degree vantage point of how this will create efficiencies and increase profits with minimal interference across the organization — not just for one department but for the entire organization.
Building a consensus with your leadership team will also help you evaluate your own capacity to be successful — both individually and collectively. In doing so, you might realize that you don’t have everything that needs to be in place in order for a new solution to succeed, but you can remedy that with enough time. This also extends beyond your leadership teams to the software’s end users. Communicating with them on technology intentions, keeping them looped into processes and giving them a place in the process to provide valuable feedback goes a long way toward achieving company-wide technology buy-in.
At Viewpoint, we sell and implement a comprehensive construction management solution and work with customers that have a wide range of internal resources to devote to the project. Customers that accurately assess their available resources, regardless of those resources, are well positioned for success because we are able to work with them to address any gaps—either directly through our professional staff, bolstered customer resources or even third parties. As one example, we recently put together a customized proposal for a large de-centralized customer that didn’t have the available IT resources to care for a portion of the project that would typically be done in-house. This allowed them to maintain a lean operating structure and complete the project on their desired timeline. On the flip side, we also work with businesses that have a more robust internal staffing model, and we can leverage those resources to reduce external project spend. Be sure to have those candid conversations with your technology provider.
If you’re considering a technology overhaul or upgrade, be sure to take a step back and explore your capacity and the capacity of your leadership team in driving through this change. Are you prepared to be the changemaker to upsell and implement this for your company? Facilitating positive technology changes in your organization doesn’t happen overnight, so make these efforts a part of your day-to-day leadership.
Can you develop a strong bond with the individual members of your leadership team and articulate the benefits they will see despite the initial challenges they will need to endure to get there? And have you thoroughly checked all references and spoken with past customers on their experience — from beginning to end? These questions, once answered, will get you on the right path towards helping your company modernize and succeed well into the future.