Thursday, January 13, 2011

4 reasons why CFOs should care about CES


What is CES?

CES is the Consumer Electronics Show.  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 who do not attend the event usually time an announcement to coincide with the event.  It is that big. 
Here are some reasons why you might send one of your finance staff to CES next year.

#1 - BYOT

Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) is quickly becoming the topic dejour in IT circles just behind cloud computing.  While cloud computing definitely is 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.  While the legal challenges and risks have yet to be sorted out, 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. 

#2 - 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). 

#3 – BYOT Part 2

If your enterprise goes down the BYOT path, you need to understand what risks your enterprise faces.  How does BYOT play into your internal controls?  Does your annual audit plan need to adjust for that?  Where does your liability begin/end if your employees are also using these devices for personal and 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.

#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.
 
Luckily, CES occurs every year in Las Vegas so if you missed this year, there is always next year.