If Bruce Nolop isn’t an expert in corporate finance, it’s hard to say who would be.
As if being the former CFO of both eTrade and Pitney Bowes wasn’t enough, Nolop is also the author of The Essential CFO: A Corporate Finance Playbook. No wonder the Wall Street Journal recently asked him to offer his personal picks for the top 10 technologies that have changed our working lives.
While some of Nolop’s choices haven’t aged well (fax machines), or are so common we take them for granted (like air conditioning), others are enduring and arguably more important than ever. This includes his No. 3 pick, office software, which he breaks down into spreadsheets (of course), word processing and presentation tools.
When you combine what he says about these products with his No. 1 choice, search engines, you get an insightful look at the future of finance.
“Software skills are now de rigueur, requiring continuous adaptation to evolving technologies,” he writes, adding that search engines are taking these IT-driven workflows to new heights. “Combining digital technologies with human insights can produce results previously unimaginable. By enabling immediate, targeted access to boundless sources of information, they have indelibly transformed our analytical, marketing, and e-commerce horizons.”
Back to the Future
Nolop was focusing on technologies from the past 50 years. So what about the next 50? How do finance departments take those “boundless sources of information” and continue the process of business transformation?
According to Ajay Kumur, the answer is cloud computing and corporate performance management. Writing in the Economic Times of India, the Oracle executive suggests that the smartest organizations are creating, in effect, their own internal search engines to stay on top of issues around borrowing, debt exposure, revenue and more:
“Companies everywhere are taking measures to make themselves as ‘uncertainty-proof’ as possible – a process that begins with the ability to react with agility to rapid change in the market. (The cloud) allows companies to automatically collect information from a number of different silos and consolidates it into a form that enables management not only report accurately, but also to review quickly, and crucially make well-founded predictions to inform future decisions.”
If you find it a bit hard to picture the full impact and proven benefits of cloud-based CPM, here’s a creative exercise to help you get started: pretend you’re someone like Nolop, writing in the Wall Street Journal; imagine yourself 10 or even 20 years from now, and cloud-based CPM has become commonplace. How would you crystallize the impact in retrospect?
Figure that out, and you’ve already made the business case to take a step toward the future.