Why finance should be the driving force in Cloud adoption

Published Tuesday, May 29, 2018 9:00 AM by Andrew Hicks, Chief Financial Officer

The Cloud is fast being recognised as a necessity for all facets of business and there’s one department it’s really transforming – finance. The Cloud is freeing the finance teams from administrative tasks, helping them win back valuable time from mundane tasks and, in doing so, giving them the opportunity to lead digital transformation. And finance chiefs – whether financial controllers or Chief Financial Officers (CFO) – are seeing their roles transformed as a result.

It’s enabled the CFO to become the ‘connected CFO’ who is now in prime position to provide the rest of the board with meaningful and insightful data analysis, and act as a key adviser to the CEO or business owner. In doing so, they are elevating their own position on the board, and helping to create a more collaborative, informed C-suite and a more connected business. They’re a strategic business partner to the CEO or owner and someone who they turn to and use as a sounding board.

If your finance function is yet to be disrupted, it won’t be long. The first step is understanding how the Cloud can enable your business to reimagine its finance function.

The overarching benefit of the Cloud is that it gives visibility and control into key business processes which, with ongoing Brexit talks creating a level of uncertainty, can help finance teams track and manage spend more effectively in an ever-changing business landscape.

More specifically, it can reduce data input and improve reporting accuracy with automatic ledger updates as well as enable users to conduct varied and detailed financial analysis of items, jobs, projects and departments. The Cloud can give visibility across the entire business to refine strategies and reduce operational costs, ensuring there is only one version of events. This addresses the painful issue of entire departments working in silos and improves collaboration as well as support for other key departments that rely on up-to-date and accurate data to help them make better, more timely decisions.

All of this analysis is delivered in real-time and with easier access from any location, at any time. It helps users instantly access, store and share financial information across multiple devices and platforms, reducing the reliance on spreadsheets and other ‘systems’.

But, for the Cloud to succeed in any finance function, there must be willing and capable people behind it. Focusing purely on technology is a misconception with regards to ensuring true digital transformation. Successful Cloud adoption requires a change in culture, structure, processes and, critically, personnel. To be fully digital, CFOs need to ensure they are rethinking and refreshing their existing business models, but also the people they hire and the way they work.

The Cloud can and should positively impact finance teams by driving productivity and allowing them to be more influential in both strategy and decision making. Whatever their role in finance, staff should be encouraged to use the Cloud to make their jobs easier, for example creating insight from ‘connected’ data with reporting that is (near) real-time, rather than waiting for month end.

However, it’s important that organisations don’t get carried away with making digital technology changes for change’s sake. Adopting a formal Cloud-first strategy is paramount, as is recognising that digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. It does not mean going from one state to another in a single project. It’s more about getting to a state where a company can continually adapt as technology, and specifically the Cloud, develops to remain agile and open to change.

Simple shifts from moving from paper to using digital processes, using workflow software to prevent bottlenecks and breaking down the barriers of communication between different departments are just some ways businesses can make a digital transition happen successfully.

In addition, someone in the organisation must take responsibility for diving the Cloud in every function within the business. As the purse holder in the business, this should fall to the CFO.

Ultimately, it’s no longer a question of if organisations should use the Cloud – but when. The Cloud offers an exciting and opportune time for the finance profession. Now’s a better time than ever for CFOs to rethink the role of their finance department and take the reins in digital transformation.

*Article adapted from original piece published by Financial Director: https://www.financialdirector.co.uk/2018/05/02/the-dealbreakers-in-helping-finance-teams-go-digital/