Tech

Tech overwhelm is real, and risky

Finance professionals can easily get overwhelmed by the wealth of digital tools and technology.
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Rudzhan Nagiev/Getty Images

· 4 min read

“Digitally transform, or die.” Chances are that as a finance professional you’ve heard that phrase, or others like it, so often that it is a part of your professional DNA.

Organizations of all types, sizes, and industries are under intense pressure to rapidly understand and adopt new technologies in order to thrive in today’s lightning-round business environment.

Responsibility for digital transformation most often falls on the finance department, and more than ever, finance professionals are being called to choose, implement, and measure the success of new technologies across their organizations.

But holy deluge, Batman, can that be a tall order. The emergence of cloud computing and advances in fintech are driving an explosion in digital tools for finance and accounting. There is a veritable ocean of technologies available to 21st-century finance departments, and understanding and choosing the right ones can seem downright daunting.

“It’s overwhelming to be certain,” said David Cieslak, EVP and chief cloud officer with RKL eSolutions LLC, a mid-market IT consulting and software reseller firm. “The advent of SaaS multi-tenant cloud solutions brought in a whole new universe of products to the market. So it seems like every time you’ve seen many of them, dozens more pop up.”

Feeling overwhelmed by the technology marketplace and the pressing urgency of digital transformation, when combined with the expert marketing of technology producers, can sometimes lead to rash and erroneous decisions, according to one accounting technology expert.

“One of the problems is that a lot of these finance professionals suffer from ‘shiny-object syndrome,’ and a lot of good marketing [is] provided by a lot of these apps,” said Ryan Lazanis, founder of Future Firm, a coaching and training company that helps accounting firms scale.“And sometimes they’re just implementing these apps when the cost benefit of actually implementing them is simply not there.”

Take a deep breath. Being overwhelmed by technology isn’t just a state of mind, it can also hurt your company’s bottom line. Organizations run the risk of wasting a lot of money if they don’t have a clear idea of their technology needs, or how to integrate new tools into existing systems, according to Lazanis.

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“They just end up with a lot of apps on their hands that aren’t producing the results they need, and that leads to them feeling like they’re drowning in the software,” Lazanis said.

Careful consideration of the problems your organization is trying to solve is key to avoiding shiny-object syndrome. Decision-makers also have to be sure they are investing in new technology strategically and effectively, according to Cieslak.

“It’s really understanding what the challenges are, where the shortfall is, [and] how it’s impacting the business,” Cieslak said. “And then articulating what the ideal solution might look like—start with that.”

But organizations also need to go beyond just problems to solve and consider their existing technology infrastructure before making technology decisions and how their organization operates, according to Lazanis.

“We can’t properly implement software unless we have the right processes in place first. It’s the most critical part, and this is it’s the first step,” Lazanis said. “We should not be shopping around and implementing the first thing that comes our way without having the right process and plan in place first.”

Deciding on which technology and tools to use is much easier once you’ve taken the time carefully planning and assessing your true technology needs. Having a clear idea of the solutions you need and how you will use the technology makes the decision process much easier.

“And then from there, you’re going to come at…the assortment of potential solutions with a much more discerning eye because you already know what your checklist looks like,” Cieslak said.

And even though there is significant pressure on finance departments to transform, it is still a process that takes time. Effectively managing technology needs and tools is an iterative process, Lazanis said, and organizations need fewer shiny new tech objects than they think, he added.

“You don’t actually need that much technology to reap a lot of the rewards. I think you need a few key pieces of technology that you could focus on structuring very well. And then, just add pieces to that as you go.”—DA

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