Integrating Technology with top business objectives

Suresh Kumar, Partner & CIO, Grant Thornton
Grant Thornton India LLP is a member firm within Grant Thornton International Ltd. Headquartered in New Delhi, the company specializes in providing compliance and advisory services to entrepreneurial companies.          
Businesses today are tasked with the ongoing responsibility of constantly understanding the evolving trends in technological development to stay competitive. Trends in technology extend out like the branches of a tree: each new innovation creates the possibility for varying directions of future development and expansion. As technology builds upon technology, the field of business technology management has arisen to provide businesses the appropriate approach to best assess and implement these varying technological advances into their strategies. 
There are a few major changes to the computing landscape happening at about the same time: Delivery platforms are shifting (mobility, cloud, social), communication and collaboration channels are being reinvented (Web, mobile, social), the consumer world of technology is driving innovation, and data is opening up and exploding out of the proliferating apps, devices, and sensors that organizations are deploying or are connecting to. As a result, there's a rapidly expanding gap between what the technology world is executing on and what the enterprise can deliver. Many now think this gap may actually become untenable. Yet the recent large surveys of CIOs continue to show an almost exclusively evolutionary and internal focus. Many feel that a technology emphasis is wrong right now, and they are certainly right, if it is not integrated with top priority business objectives. However, these days it is technology advancements and new digital markets that are often the key to an organization's future.
Nexus of Technologies
Social networking is helping professional services firms reach new clients across the globe and helping them in creating brand awareness. It is also helping in attracting young talent and acting as one of the key means of recruiting. Besides public social networking platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, firms are ready to embrace Enterprise social networking software for collaboration, file sharing and knowledge transfer within the organization. Another trend which is towards faster adoption to gain business benefits is Cloud computing which is now a reality. Most professional services firms will have hybrid cloud – private cloud for sensitive business information and public cloud for everything else. The benefits will be realized as more applications are migrated to cloud and vendors compete to offer value for money.
The burgeoning data has attracted Business Intelligence and analytics to help professional services firms in managing their businesses better by measuring performance metrics, using quantitative analytics to arrive at optimal decision and leveraging strategic reporting, collaboration and knowledge management platforms. Big data will help professional services firms know their clients better and offer customized services. Some of the insights which big data might throw are in the sector in which the target company operates, sectors of interest for key individuals, work that the firm is already doing for them, previous spend and profitability, job function, role and seniority of an individual at that target, client’s attitude towards the firm and their areas of geographical interest or jurisdiction.
CIO’s Desk
While the technology trends are driving growth of the industry there are some of the technology needs of enterprises which are not being satisfactorily met by vendors like reliable cost-effective storage solution, public cloud services with easy exit options and effective reverse proxy solution. With ever growing technology needs of enterprises, the CIOs face a number of challenges. One of the key challenges in the role of CIO is proving return on investments. Some of the IT investments are strategic in nature and returns are not immediately visible. Strategic IT investments are essential for the business and non-investment may lead to irreparable damage e.g. damage to reputation. The strategies to be deployed to overcome such challenges is to partner with business – show the benefits of IT investments e.g. increasing brand awareness through social media, improving user experience and enhancing user productivity. It is also important to make business leadership aware of the pitfalls of non-investment in strategic IT projects.
 Three biggest issues which the CIOs face today are fast changing business environment, increasing security threats and flat budgets. Business and economic environment is changing very fast. IT needs to be highly agile and provide solutions that meet these changing requirements. Solutions such as cloud computing and big data analytics can help IT teams meet these requirements. Information security threats are more frequent and complex. No solution can permanently safeguard against the changing security threats. IT teams need to constantly monitor, review and change security posture as required. Also with IT budgets being flat, focus should be on delivering value for business while reducing cost through innovation.