New Business Trend: Bring Your Own Technology

CES is the Consumer Electronics Show held every year in Las Vegas. It is the annual industry event where vendors demonstrate product innovation and announce product launches for consumer technology in the next year. 

Just about every electronics manufacturer and related company has a presence at the event. Even companies like Apple that do not attend usually time an announcement to coincide with the CES. It is that big. 
Here are some reasons why you might go or send one of your finance staff to CES next year (the 2011 show was held January 6 to 9).
Reason No. 1: BYOT
Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is quickly becoming the topic du jour in IT circles, just behind cloud computing.  While cloud computing definitely should be on your enterprise agenda, you also need to be taking advantage of BYOT.
With the advent of smart phones and tablet computers, employees are more wired and mobile than ever. While the normal mobile model is still a corporate purchase of a BlackBerry and laptop, leading companies are taking advantage of the fact that their employees are purchasing leading edge technology devices and connecting them to their corporate information assets. 
The legal challenges and risks have yet to be sorted out, but the financials make sense: the company only pays for a license for the email server. While monthly connection fees are typically shared, initial device costs are paid for by the employee. 
Detailed cost savings studies are just now being developed so it’s still early to say what the hard ROI is. However, everyone agrees that there are soft ROIs such as employee satisfaction and improved efficiency.
The reason CES is important in light of BYOT is it gives you insight into the mobile platforms that are coming and how these platforms can be used in the finance arena. 
Reason No. 2: The Millennial Effect
Like it or not, you’re not getting any younger.  The generation entering the corporate finance world right now, the Millennials, have grown up more connected and in tune with social media than any other generation before. 
A key component characterizing this generation from the Baby Boomers is that the Millennials have ubiquitous access to information.  Always on, always connected, and one click from Wikipedia. 
The products that are showcased at CES are the key to understanding this generation. Long-term succession planning dictates you understand how to communicate with them on a meaningful level. 
Building a solid finance team dictates that you understand how to motivate them (hint: it’s not about dollars). 
Reason No. 3: BYOT Part 2
If your company goes down the BYOT path, you need to understand what risks it faces.
How does BYOT play into your internal controls? Does your annual audit plan need to be adjusted to take BYOT into account? Where does your liability begin and when does it end if your employees also use these devices for personal and possibly unethical or illegal purposes? 
Attending CES will afford you the opportunity to discuss these issues with the vendors and potentially shape product direction as devices move from consumers to the enterprise.
Reason No. 4: Industry
Obviously, this goes without saying, but if your industry touches a consumer, CES is an avenue you should consider for future marketing and business development efforts. 
Think CES is for electronics companies only? Tell that to Coke. Joe Tripodi, executive vice president and chief marketing and commercial officer of The Coca-Cola Company, was a keynote speaker at a panel in this year’s CES.
“Coke has had to turn to the high-tech space in order to be relevant in its marketing messages,” notes journalist Mark Raby, writing for technology lifestyle magazine I4U News. “For an organization to be successful and connect with its consumers, it needs to practically have its own Twitter department, and if you don't have an iPhone app you're somehow seen as less valuable.”
Luckily, CES occurs every year in Las Vegas so if you missed this year, there is always next year.
About the Author
Jonathan Collins writes the blog CFO Newsletter, where this article first appeared. He is a senior manager for KPMG China in Hong Kong. Combining a passion for finance and accounting, an enthusiasm for business improvement and deep experience in technology, Jonathan specializes in turnaround and improvement efforts for CFOs and CIOs. He can be reached at [email protected].

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