By Wyn Innes, Chief Financial Officer, Ogi
30th March 2005. Two tiny villages in west Wales; Ferryside and Llansteffan – each with just a few hundred residents – became the first places in the UK to receive digital TV signal. Most of the households had multiple TV sets and they watched over the average amount of telly for the UK, but most still only had four channels. Despite apprehensions about how digital TV would perform and be received by residents after a three-month trial over 99% of households said they wanted to switch permanently. From this small start, the entire nation completely switched to digital TV, until the analogue signal was switched off in late 2012.
Few digital transformation projects occur on that scale. In fact, the switch to digital television was such a landmark that the Science Museum has collected materials from the switchover, including early set-top boxes as well as marketing materials designed to inform the public about the benefits of switching. Nevertheless, even at this national scale, there is a kind of logic, a set of rules that go into making a transformation project run smoothly. These processes hold true for landmark projects such as the switch from analogue to digital TV, or the roll-out of smart energy meters, the adoption of cloud computing in a small business, or the creation of an Internet of Things smart warehouse.
For the CFO, one of these rules is more important than any of the others; get involved. It’s very important to understand how the project is working. It’s far too easy to simply agree to budgets, sign off purchase orders and keep the basics of a project at arms length – but that would be a mistake. We have an opportunity to contribute to the success of a project early on by engaging fully. We CFOs need to not only provide the financial envelope within which the project can operate, but also have important insights into the risk management, sales and marketing strategies, the product pricing models, supplier relationships, and programme delivery. If we make the effort to get involved, as well as understanding the financial, regulatory, and legal framework, we can also address many more of the risks and issues from the start.
The alternative to getting involved in a digital transformation early is to sit it out. A bit like the latest must-see TV series, if you don’t watch every week, it becomes impossible to catch up, so too when a project hits a problem or a potential risk arises, the CFO who hadn’t been keeping up has to “binge-watch”, to bring themselves up to speed and provide meaningful advice or leadership.
The consequences for the success of the project and the business as a whole when a CFO waits for the box-set to drop, are a bit more serious than missing out on office chit-chat. The CFO brings a unique collection of insights and can typically spot potential risks way ahead of time.
Unlike your favourite television show, we want to know exactly how a transformation project is going to end. What we don’t want are surprises. One of the potential pitfalls for DX projects is the myriad of regulatory frameworks within which we all operate. A good CFO should know the regulatory landscape for his industry like the back of their hand, and if they’re fully engaged in the project as it progresses, they’re uniquely positioned to flag up any potential infractions or regulatory complications before they tie the project into a cul-de-sac.
Ready for the sequel
The incredible power of digital transformation is the opportunity it brings and projects that started out to solve one problem, can go on to solve many more. An engaged CFO should contribute to the process of identifying these opportunities and ensuring the maximum return on the investment; after all, transformation projects of any scale always come with a cost. We should be asking if the transformation allows us to deliver new products or services and we have the opportunity to contribute to the development of sales and marketing approaches, all of which ensures the business not only survives the digital transformation project but goes on to enjoy lasting success, season after season.
The success of a transformation is when you can no longer recognise life before it. As I pick up the remote and flick through hundreds of TV channels, it really is hard to believe we ever survived with just four! So too as the full fibre broadband project reaches out across the country, we will long forget the days of dial-up.
A final rallying call to CFOs then: don’t tune in just in time for the credits to roll. Get involved with your transformation projects as soon as you can. You’ll bring untold benefits to the project, and you might even enjoy it!