How C-level execs can resolve their differences on technology’s ‘invest to grow’ debate
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How C-level execs can resolve their differences on technology’s ‘invest to grow’ debate

How C-level execs can resolve their differences on technology’s ‘invest to grow’ debate

The best platforms and tools should empower a business to take action and make it competitive

Gulf Business

There is no question that regional businesses accelerated their digital transformations overnight to accommodate the pandemic’s changing working arrangements. Covid-19 called for swift action, and that is what we saw. According to research from AppDynamics, 78 per cent of surveyed UAE technologists pointed to digital transformation projects having been implemented within weeks rather than the months or years it would have taken before the pandemic.

IT budgets were redirected towards cloud migrations and quick wins that would support business continuity. Boards and C-level managers were united in the pursuit of two things — employee safety and short-term changes that would shield the business from market upheavals. While this was undoubtedly necessary at the time, senior executives can find themselves stuck in a play-it-safe mindset that continues to postpone longer-term, strategic investments.

Many of the region’s organisations have found a way to return to a semblance of normality. While nothing will be the same as it was before the pandemic, the quick wins and firefighting phases are behind us. Hybrid work is largely established and accepted, with arguments now being made to refocus on strategic investment. This has led, in many organisations, to a triangular power struggle between the chief executive officer (CEO), the chief financial officer (CFO) and the chief information officer (CIO). Chief executives want to focus on revenue growth, but financial leaders are wary of large capital outlays, preferring to remain budget-conscious. Meanwhile, the CIO wages their time-honoured battle to win over the CEO and CFO and convince them that a long-term technology strategy, which is necessary in the digital age, requires investment. In the tumultuous early stages of the pandemic, the CFO’s case was more easily made, and frequently won out.

In 2022, the region is in recovery mode, which means greater competition. To compete, organisations need to pinpoint where to invest in order to drive growth.

Business agility is a priority
Flexibility is key in a post-Covid technology environment as it allows senior executives to build agile businesses. Legacy infrastructure does not provide this flexibility or agility and is insufficient to enable quick pivots to new opportunities. Therefore, investing in this area is vital. A Pure Storage survey revealed 83 per cent of decision-makers considered an agile strategy essential in innovating effectively and growing.

In this climate, not only is the CEO’s forward-looking, growth-oriented perspective gaining the upper hand, but the CIO’s contribution to future growth is more readily accepted. The pandemic demonstrated the value IT teams could add to an enterprise. After technology proved pivotal to survival for the region’s enterprises, other business areas are now open to hearing from CIOs about what role technology can play in the next chapter of the corporate story.

According to a recent global study from ESG, the top three factors used to justify IT investments are the need to tighten cyber security, deliver timely business intelligence, and enhance the customer experience. A long-term strategy can be seen at work in these priorities. They demonstrate an awareness of the risks to the business of, say: a ransomware attack, a missed opportunity, or being unresponsive to customer needs. Indeed, the survey drew a direct correlation between technology investment, customer experience, and business growth.

Business-focused technology investment
Thankfully, regional leaders on both the technology and business side are aware of the value technology adds and the problems it can solve. The best platforms and tools should empower a business to take action and make it competitive. This will ensure an enterprise can remain relevant to customers, partners, and investors, adding value for all stakeholders.

The rise of flexible consumption models as standard and cloud-like operating models provide good news for the CFO. This means that cost of ownership is easier to calculate and project and that the days of large capital expenditure are over. As-a-Service models also allow the growth-minded CEO and the strategy-minded CIO to try new tools and platforms, and if they don’t work, remove them from outgoings as there’s no long-term commitment.

The CEO will embrace investments that bring agility and the ability to adapt to customers in real-time. Technology that can be consumed in a cloud-like manner, scaled up and down when needed, will appeal to the CIO. The CFO will be comforted by growth-driven investment that is predictable and controllable. As 2022 progresses, more and more regional businesses will accept that a growth strategy no longer needs to be relegated to the ‘future plans’ pile. It can occur right now in a way that will please CFO, CEO and CIO alike.

Omar Akar is the regional vice president – Middle East and Emerging Africa, Pure Storage

Read: What the region’s B2B businesses can learn from B2C models

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