A major challenge of today’s technologies is that there are too many of them. Innovations occur daily, and companies can’t keep pace with the associated changes, complexities, costs, and risks for adopting them.
Earlier this year, IMA’s Technology Solutions & Practices (TS&P) Committee identified more than 200 technology trends gathered from analyst firms, technology visionaries, business and technology media, and market research. After analyzing them, the Committee selected those most relevant to management accountants. The goal is to use this list as a guide to develop resources for IMA® members so they can further their understanding of and leverage technology in their business. Here are eight key technology trends for 2015.
- Data Governance
A data governance strategy and plan speaks to a company’s overall management of the availability of information, the usability or utility of that information, and the integrity, quality, and security of information. Data is a mission-critical asset of any company today. The company’s ability to govern and manage this critical asset is equally important. Boards of directors and senior management need to ensure that they have adequate strategies and plans in place to govern and protect their information assets. With cybersecurity breaches in the daily headlines, governing data assets is now a material risk factor. Lack of good data governance exposes companies to significant potential risks, including loss of data, control, customers, trust, brand credibility, and reputation, not to mention lawsuits.
- Big Data
As the ability to cost effectively capture data from an exploding number of sources improves, so does the potential for utilizing the data to drive economic activity and decision making. Big Data, along with advanced analytics, is a rapidly evolving opportunity that also presents several challenges when dealing with data storage, analysis, learning, filing systems, data models, reporting methodologies, software deployment, hardware needs, and more.
- Business Intelligence and Analytics
Business intelligence has evolved from the use of timely information that looks at what happened in the business and how it happened to a science that facilitates improved business decision making through advanced analytics. This helps companies gain insight (what could happen) and foresight (what will happen) as they plan for future economic growth and empowers them to drive more strategic decisions through the use of intelligence and analytics pulled from this data. Sources of new data are prolific, coming in many known forms (e.g., location, purchase transactions, online viewing, and activity posts). But not all of it is relevant or meaningful to the company, so management must be able to filter and focus the information to gain insight and drive decisions, which is much more challenging in the Big Data environment.
- Smart Machines and Automation
Computing power is getting stronger—Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on a chip will double every two years. This prediction and reality have enabled companies to develop smaller, more powerful computers. Increased computing power is allowing scientists and companies to develop machines (e.g., robotics) that enhance our lives, increase our business productivity, and put once never-dreamed-of controls at our fingertips.
- Mobile Computing
Extending information collection and use from desktops and laptops to smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices is old news. Employees are now able to replicate the capabilities of their computers onto their increasingly sophisticated mobile devices that are capable of advanced predictive or prescriptive analytics so they can make decisions where and when they need to by using the latest reliable data. This means employees are able to provide higher-quality information for their organizations and make better decisions no matter where they are. This also leads to potential competitive advantages for a company.
- Cyber and Physical Security
Cybersecurity frequently is listed as a top concern among companies today. Governments, utilities, critical infrastructure, and corporations are continually targeted by hackers trying to find weak points in a company’s controls, systems, and protections in order to steal information, cause harm, and inflict damage. Physical security of real-world assets and facilities (e.g., data centers, server farms, offices, and factories) is a closely related issue. Management accountants have a role to play in protecting company information, systems, software, data centers, hardware, and more through effective controls and monitoring, a sound data governance strategy, and the skilled deployment of technologies.
Cloud computing is the storage of and access to data and programs over the Internet rather than through traditional, on-premise computers, networks, and servers. The cloud increases the computing capacity and capabilities of companies in a cost-effective manner. Although there are many varieties of the cloud, such as Software-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service, it may help to see the cloud as a metaphor for the Internet. It enables smaller entities to enjoy better features and functionality. Since the cloud also involves security concerns, accounting and finance leaders must know the risks and benefits of this technology.
- Internet of Things (IoT)
Defined as the interconnectivity of a variety of remote devices through the Internet or internal networks (e.g., smart refrigerators), the IoT provides real-time information for analysis and decision making. It’s exciting because of its imaginative applications and fast growth, but as a frontier technology, it’s inherently risky. For example, it lacks security controls to monitor who can access its information and is vulnerable to cyber attacks.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
These trends represent a diverse, meaningful collection of technologies that will benefit companies of all types and sizes. They will also help management accountants and finance professionals move higher up the value chain in their organizations—from traditional transactional reporting roles to more strategic roles—helping guide their businesses into the future.
We encourage you to find out more about new technologies and how they impact your organization. The TS&P Committee is putting together bundles of resources around each of these themes to help IMA members learn more about the trends and how they impact their professional roles. Join the discussions in our LinkUp IMA community at http://bit.ly/TSPCommunity.
The world, business, and technology are always changing. The question is, will you change with it or be left behind?