Finance, on a departmental basis, has typically been one of the slowest adopters of Cloud services. But many believe we have begun to reach a tipping point. Dispelling myths about security and the social proof of watching other departments migrate to the Cloud en masse over the last couple of years has encouraged them to think a little harder about making the move.
Furthermore, Cloud-based services are beginning to offer features that make the experience distinctly superior to on-premise solutions in all but the rarest of circumstances.
So which features and benefits are driving the most change? Here are four standout features that are driving more and more finance departments to the Cloud.
One of the biggest advantages of Cloud-based approaches is the marked increase in visibility and oversight. With the traditional offline approaches to budget management, mistakes and multiple versions of the truth can haunt finance departments. Discounts and promotional giveaways may not be properly tracked. Items that appear on one person’s budget may not appear on another’s.
Another common consistency issue is when different departments are relying on different versions of the truth. How many times have you encountered a scenario such as: walking into a budget meeting only to end up disagreeing about definitions for half the meeting participants came with data from different sources? Operations, finance and sales may all have a completely different understanding of margins or cost-of-goods, for example.
Ideally, a company will be able to operate from one source of truth. Moving to a Cloud-based system allows different departments to pull from the same pool of information, eliminating the inefficiencies of multiple data sources.
Having access to information over the Cloud gives the various stakeholders the ability to view the data from anywhere and make informed decisions. This is particularly relevant during a bottom-up planning process, where multiple departments and stakeholders are forecasting at once. Make decisions in a vacuum here, and your budget will be irrelevant by the end of the quarter.
If you’re using a Cloud-based forecast, you can evolve this from a one-time exercise to a rolling process. Then you have the most up-to-date information in people’s hands when they need it the most. When you’re getting a constant feed of intelligence from the boots on the ground, you’ll always be more accurate. Over time, having this accurate data at a moment’s notice becomes an incredibly powerful tool for evolving the business.
Having instant, secure accessibility from anywhere allows you to quickly correct errors, realign forecasts and bring real-time analysis into more activities. Modern Cloud-based solutions often offer access from a mobile phone or tablet, allowing you to quickly access your data when you are away from your desk.
This can come in handy in a variety of scenarios, whether you’re pulling up your data on an iPad in a meeting with the CFO, or answering a quick question from your team when you have to be out of the office. Think how great it would be for your whole organization to have instant access to a real-time single source of truth – from sales to production to purchasing. You can instantly know if more or less product was needed. You can quickly adjust materials orders and production timelines to accommodate the changes. The reality is, changes happen, and it’s tough to accommodate them when you’re working from an annual forecast.
- Agility & Scalability
According to a study by the Harvard Business Review, companies cited increased business agility as their most valued benefit of Cloud computing. Many companies have found the Cloud gives them the ability to quickly scale their infrastructure, add stakeholders, adapt to mergers & acquisitions, and reorganize their business.
In the past, on-premise infrastructure changes would require weeks or months of time for the requisition and deployment of new servers (not to mention time lost to training, maintenance and downtime), and thousands, if not millions of dollars in hardware costs – depending on the scale. With the Cloud, you get your people trained and you’re off to the races.
According to one CIO quoted in the aforementioned HBR study, “Having a scalable infrastructure enables us to go out and acquire a new business more easily. Today, we just have to turn on additional licenses.”
- Security & Updates
Technology moves quickly, and investing in on-premise solutions can cause you to get stuck standing still while others move ahead with more full-featured, secure solutions. Cloud services allow you to quickly adopt new robust features as they roll out.
One area of particular importance here is security. While finance departments were initially leery about the prospect of putting their data security in the hands of someone else, more and more are coming to realize that data stored in web service data centers like those of the Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services is orders of magnitude more secure than they will ever be able to achieve on their own.
These tech giants are able to quickly adapt to threats and roll out new layers of protection on a wide scale. While the thought of holding your data tightly in-house seems comforting, it is likely more vulnerable behind a less robust suite of services in-house, relative to the secure data centers offered by leading tech companies.
Interested in learning more about Cloud-based financial solutions? What tools can offer the consistency of a single source of truth? Real time accessibility across the organization that lets you evolve the business week-to-week instead of year-to-year? Instantly scalable infrastructure that adjusts to your organization? The ironclad security of the world’s leading tech companies?
Our Catalyst software offers all these benefits and more, and easily works alongside any ERP. If you’re looking for a Cloud-based solution that can truly revolutionize your business, be sure and explore what Catalyst can do for you: http://www.ebmcatalyst.com/