African Tech Voices: The enterprise network and its role in supporting the Chief Financial Officer
In today’s digital economy, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has historically always been well-acquainted with the enterprise network. After all, without a solid understanding of the network, how it operates, its associated costs and savings, and its impact on the business, CFOs would not be able to perform their role as the final sign off on all buying decisions, including network investment.
However, this relationship is changing. And it’s changing in a way that I think will be quite attractive to CFOs. Why? Because new developments are meaning that network investment is becoming much more reliable, predictable and profitable than before.
1. The business case is clearer than ever
Discussions around investing in the network have moved well-beyond providing proof of ROI.
Even if it’s not an explicit bid for network investment, the reality of today’s digital world is that the majority of solutions, experiences and tools are tech-enabled, and require a network infrastructure that can support them.
Therefore, network investment is no longer about added business value, but about business continuation. Within South Africa, PwC Digital Procurement Survey 2022 shows that digital transformation is now also being motivated by Risk management and Compliance, in addition to traditional objectives of process optimisation and cost reduction.
Digital leaders will consolidate efforts to build a diverse ecosystem, comprising the infrastructure on which platforms are built. According to the 2022 BCX Digital Innovation Report, this will enable a greater degree of flexibility, even for capital-intensive industries that are used to working with complex, long-term contracts. It’s about ensuring that your business has the infrastructure it needs to continue fulfilling customer, employee and client demands, and to stay competitive.
To provide the workplace of the future – one that is smart, agile, sustainable and efficient, and supports hybrid working. To deliver an employee experience that attracts and retains employees in an increasingly difficult job market. To ensure business resilience, in case of another crisis like the pandemic.
And finally, to meet growing societal, industry and investor expectations around climate action.
2. When it comes to sustainability reporting, the network is the CFO’s best ally
The implementation of Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) goals practices has become essential for the future growth and sustainability of South African businesses. ESG’s are becoming a vital consideration to consumers, as well as potential employees, customers, suppliers and partners who are refusing to do business with companies with less-than-attractive sustainability credentials.
A study by BCG/MIT found that although 90% of executives find sustainability to be important, only 60% of companies incorporate sustainability into their business strategy, with a mere 25% having sustainability incorporated into the business model. For some, reducing their organisation's carbon footprint is enough incentive to go green. For others, lowering costs and gaining eco-conscious customers are bigger factors fuelling their sustainability efforts.
With sustainability now having such a direct impact on a company’s bottom line, CFOs are finding themselves more and more accountable for a matter traditionally beyond their remit. Understanding the underlying principles of value creation in their organisations and in their industries has never been as important as it is right now. Fortunately, the network can help CFOs to both make and measure progress towards sustainability goals.
By supporting CIO in creating a more connected, hybrid workplace, fitted out with all the necessary devices and sensors, CFOs can ensure that they are able to accurately calculate the company’s exact reduction in carbon emissions, energy and resource usage, and of course, costs.
It’s the only way to achieve the gold standard in green accounting.
3. It’s becoming an increasingly financially sound decision
Beyond being a strategically sound decision, as established above, new developments in network infrastructure have helped make investing easier financially and logistically for CFOs.
For example, flexible financing models like those delivered by HPE GreenLake for Aruba, as part of its Network-as-a-Service offering, enable businesses to lower the total cost of network technology ownership, and to move infrastructure expenses from CapEx investments into OpEx costs.
The appetite for NaaS is rising, with Aruba research showing that it is now being discussed in 86% of EMEA companies. Instead of one big, upfront cost, the business is able to make recurring, predictable, usage-based payments that are aligned to whatever the financial situation may be at any given moment.
And, importantly, these payments are backed up by established Service Level Agreements (SLAs) – further minimising the risk of investment. As an added bonus, at Aruba we often redeploy decommissioned hardware at other companies or in other regions, allowing companies to contribute to the circular economy and boost their sustainability creds.
To facilitate these financing options, some CFOs may need to trigger a change in their governance and investment models. But as you can see, the benefits are undeniable.
4. Not investing in the network is a security risk
Who else remembers the days when financial data was largely kept offline for security reasons? When employees physically needed to go into the office to access sensitive information?
Companies had already been moving away from this method of working for the past decade, and then of course, the pandemic made it impossible.
There is no choice today but for financial departments to be fully connected. This is particularly true if they wish to use technology and data to facilitate their own digital transformation, in order to unlock benefits like better business data collection and analytics, more sophisticated financial engineering capabilities and optimised financial processes.
But the ever-increasing amount of data, users, devices and access points has made security a much more complex issue than ever before. Add to this the regulations and compliance issues that financial departments have always had to navigate – but are made even trickier by our rapidly evolving society.
Recent statistics reveal that in 2021, an average of 97 South Africans fell victim to cybercrime every hour. To complicate matters even further, there is a growing need for companies to be more transparent with their information, and for financial data to be leveraged by multiple departments across the company.
So how can you possibly ensure security?
First, automation is non-negotiable. Then, companies should consider innovative security solutions that can easily deliver device visibility and critically, role- and device-based network access control – meaning that the network security is both fully flexible and reliably watertight.
Embracing this evolving relationship
As I said, the CFO is no stranger to the enterprise network. But it’s no longer something to simply sign off on. Instead, it can be a much more mutually beneficial relationship.
the CFO is no stranger to the enterprise network. But it’s no longer something to simply sign off on.
The network today is such an integral part of any business and has such a huge impact on business results – which sits squarely within the CFOs area of responsibility.
So just as the CFO has historically been integral in driving business performance, they should now feel empowered to drive network development and investment.
After all, just like with any relationship, you only get what you give.