Investing in IT for stronger business growth
With four decades of experience driving growth at leading technology corporations, IPI Innovation Advisor Bill Padfield has a wealth of wisdom for SMEs planning on launching an IPO.

At some point in the life of a successful company, the question of going public might come up. Perhaps the company’s leaders sense a market opportunity on the horizon and need to raise the funds needed to take on the anticipated growth. Furthermore, launching an initial public offering (IPO) could also be a great way to raise public awareness of the company and help to increase its market share.

While most pre-IPO companies are rightly fixated with details like deciding which index to list on or making sure they meet all the regulatory requirements, one key consideration that should not be neglected is the strength of their underlying information technology (IT) systems, said Bill Padfield, an experienced technology professional and IPI Innovation Advisor.

Getting ready for growth

The journey to an IPO is a long and complex one, requiring SMEs to level up on all fronts—administrative, technological, strategic and more—before they can become operationally ready, said Padfield, who sits on the board of space start-up, Transcelestial and also advises for NTT Venture Capital and Wavemaker Partners Venture Capital.

“The demands on information from the leadership team and all aspects of the business will be unprecedented,” he said. Beyond increasing overall productivity, implementing robust IT systems gives companies crucial insight into their operations, Padfield added. This in turn helps them measure the most important aspects of their business and makes financial reporting easier.  

Whether it is financial reporting processes or automating the sales and purchasing cycles, there is often a sizeable checklist of areas in need of attention—a minefield for inexperienced companies to navigate. While no enterprise will be in perfect shape before an IPO, with funds raised often used to modernise IT platforms and other processes, the key is to understand and dedicate resources to the areas of priority the company will work on, advised Padfield.

“These priorities should focus on helping you scale efficiently, report and maintain good governance, maintain compliance and manage risk,” he emphasised. With over four decades of experience leading technology and business corporations like Alliant Computer Systems and NTT, Padfield has participated in IPOs and privatisations, and is equipped with the expertise to guide SMEs through the arduous IPO process and beyond—helping them become serious competitors on the market. 

Potential pitfalls

To differentiate themselves from the competition, companies can harness IT developments to improve and automate processes. However, as they embark on their innovation journeys, SMEs may face challenges such as growing inefficiencies and an inability to retain their competitive advantage, Padfield warned.

As companies start to scale up operations, previously latent problems—from inaccuracies in financial reporting and inefficient human resource management to lack of production automation and a proper research and innovation process—will begin to show. With his finger on the pulse of the latest innovations and best-in-field practices, Padfield can offer guidance to SMEs that find themselves facing inefficiencies as they look to grow.

Additionally, companies must keep in mind that even as they commit to harnessing technology and continuously improving on their processes, their competitors are doing likewise. To stay technologically ahead, the key is to constantly focus on automation, Padfield highlighted. He suggests several options—employing the Internet of Things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA), migrating to the cloud, re-writing applications to be more efficient and enabling client and internal applications to be run from a smartphone rather than a computer.

“It’s the agility that automation and IT can provide which enables an enterprise to outsmart or out-position a competitor by providing goods and services that clients really want faster than your competition,” explained Padfield.

People, processes and tools

While technological transformation and automation can help a company get ahead, the process of implementation is not always straightforward, particularly in large organisations. But having a strong leadership team in place can make all the difference, he said. For example, in his most recent global role at NTT of Japan, Padfield served as board member of NTT Inc, and head of global consulting managed support and technical services. He advised on technology, digital integration and operations as well as developed the talent of a 40,000-strong workforce for the business. “It’s critical to have the right people, particularly in the leadership team,” he said. “The team that got you here might not be the team that gets you there.”

As processes and tools change with the inclusion of IT, it is also essential to have a team that is open to change and re-training, he added. By levelling up the workforce’s technological capabilities across the organisation, processes painstakingly adapted for efficiency can be fully utilised and scaled up effectively. As the CEO of Dimension Data, Asia Pacific and later as global COO for the Group, Padfield led some of the largest transformation programmes in the firm’s history and ran its business in the fastest-growing region. With his first-hand experience leading change, Padfield can guide SMEs as they look to improve their processes and their people. 

If your company is preparing for IPO and looking to put in place the right innovation to support its growth, check out IPI’s Innovation Advisors Programme to find out how you can tap on an experienced veteran like Bill Padfield.