How to prioritize your technology investments

Envision your technology as a portfolio with different levels of risk.

Video transcript:

So a lot of times people want to track ROI because they’re like, “How much am I going to get out of this?” And it’s really about dollars. What we really need to start thinking about is what type of an investment is this, right? So that’s why we’re starting to track ROI. It’s not just “OK, I’m spending all this money, I’m spending all this money.” If you’re in that “I’m spending money on IT mode”, then you’re in that laggard class, because IT is so much more than about spend. One of the models that I like to use is our concept of run, optimize, innovate. So anytime you’re spending, that’s run. That keeps your firm operating; that just keeps things going. That you want to minimize, because I want to make sure—it’s like a fixed cost; I want to minimize that fixed cost because I have to have this to run. Optimize spend is really about efficiencies and effectiveness—how can I increase the efficiency, or how can I increase the effectiveness of what we’re doing? That should be an also separate consideration. That’s going to end up helping that run, it’s going to make it better, but it’s also going to introduce other things like that effectiveness concept we talked about. The last piece I like to think about is that innovate. Innovate is where I’m really doing something that’s kind of outside of the box.

One of the other challenges that we often see is that now there are so many technology projects that you can do. So, the question becomes what technology should I undertake, or which project should I undertake? That’s where we really want to look at this concept of portfolio, and so I mention that run, optimize, innovate—that’s the portfolio, right? So run is our lower—lower risk, perhaps I-got-to-do-it type of stuff. Optimize is going to be moderate risk—maybe I want to do it, it’s going to help us. Innovate becomes really that, like, well, higher risk stuff. But what you have to remember (is) we’re going to follow our investment portfolio, right? Depending upon where we are in the life of our firm, I may be taking on different things. If I’m trying to propel myself forward, if I want to grow, I want to expand, I need to be taking on more of these higher-risk things because they’re really going to help us move forward. So it’s really about prioritizing between the three: Run, I’m almost always going to do because if I don’t do it I endanger the ongoing operation of the firm. Optimize and innovate, I want to prioritize. And sometimes people go, wait, but if—if I don’t have enough money, am I really—do I want to do these higher-risk things? Well, if that higher-risk thing is going to allow you to open a new line of business, it’s going to generate this whole new market, or maybe open up this whole new market, then you want to prioritize that over just incrementally improving what you’ve got going on in run. 

Where to find June’s flipbook issue

The Journal of Accountancy is now completely digital. 





Leases standard: Tackling implementation — and beyond

The new accounting standard provides greater transparency but requires wide-ranging data gathering. Learn more by downloading this comprehensive report.