Apple Isn’t Just Disrupting Industries, It’s Changing Business Itself

Apple Isn’t Just Disrupting Industries, It’s Changing Business Itself

The iPad's biggest role in business is changing how executives think about technology

One way to look at the consumerization of IT is as a democratization of workplace technology decisions. Executives and employees alike have become much more sophisticated users of technology. Through iPhones and iPads, they see how well-designed devices, platforms, and apps can create enjoyable and, more importantly, productive user experiences. As a result, they don’t tolerate clunky business systems and slow IT responses as much as they did a few years ago.

Many executives and pundits believe this has already changed the balance of power between the CIO/IT management and the CFO and other executives. A recent Gartner survey found that overall, CFOs are leading IT decision-making more than they were just two years ago. One could even argue that in addition to disrupting industries like music and mobile technology, Apple is subtly disrupting IT and business itself  (with some help from other tech and business innovators).

The survey, which Gartner has conducted annually since 2010, shows pretty distinctly that CFOs are gaining political capital in technology areas.

  • 44% of CFOs say that their influence in technology decisions has increased over the past two years
  • 47% say that it has remained about the same
  • 9% say that their roles have diminished

It’s hard not to notice that nearly half of CFOs have gained clout since the iPad’s launch in 2010. There are other factors involved, of course – the iPad alone isn’t responsible for that shift, but it is a factor. Along with the iPhone, Android devices, Apple TV or other connected TV systems, and personal cloud computer services, the iPad is making everyone more comfortable with technology – and that doesn’t stop when a receptionist, accountant, or CFO enters the office each morning.

Despite growing influence, almost no CFOs are unilaterally making IT decisions – only 1% responded that they were the sole decision maker. Many, however, did have significant involvement in planning technology purchases.

  • 41% were part of a group responsible for IT decision-making
  • 16% weren’t part of collaborative decision-making but offered advice to such a group or a CIO who was making the decisions.

The clear message here is that CFOs are taking a more active part in developing long-term technology and infrastructure planning than ever before and are likely becoming part of day-to-day tech decisions. That’s a good thing overall – if CIOs and IT departments are willing to work together as a cohesive team with CFOs and other staff, something that Gartner’s vice president John Van Decker points out.

The CFO and CIO are well-positioned to work together at generating business value from enterprise IT investments. However, this performance is often not achieved because of poor perceptions of IT, a parochial CFO or CIO perspective, or simply a failure to invest in the CFO-CIO relationship. This year’s results show that, in most organizations, the CFO and CIO work together to finance IT and provide information that supports enterprise processes. But there is also an opportunity for them to form a powerful alliance that generates more value for the enterprise.

The study also indicates that CFOs are willing to fund core IT projects overall because they see the need to improve things like business intelligence and analysis, which 57% of respondents ranked as a key area for technology growth and support. Also critical is collaboration and knowledge management, which 52% of CFOs described as a critical business use of technology.

Overall, the survey shows that even when Apple and its products (as well as those of other companies) aren’t explicitly part of the business dialog, they are changing the relationships in business – and more often than not, that seems to be a very good thing.

About the author

Ryan FaasRyan Faas is a technology journalist and consultant living in upstate New York who has written extensively about Apple, business and enterprise IT, and the mobile industry. In addition to writing for Cult of Mac, he is a contributor to Computerworld, InformIT, and Peachpit Press. In a previous existence he was a healthcare IT director as well as a systems and network administrator. Follow Ryan on Twitter and Google +

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