The CFOs case for moving to a cloud-based accounting system

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Are your accounting systems no longer meeting your needs and are expensive to maintain? Are you intrigued by cloud applications, but don’t know where to begin? I recently led a panel discussion with a CFO, CIO and COO to discuss their decision to move to the cloud. Here is the CFO’s story about how the cloud has allowed him to become more strategic.

Our CFO had a challenge. His company was rapidly growing. They had used basic systems in the past, but realized that their systems became cumbersome. Some of the core challenges were:

  1. They had to add new instances of their software to support different geographies and business lines.
  2. They had to consolidate information into excel on a daily basis.
  3. None of the systems talked to each other.
  4. They had to keep “throwing bodies” at the problem because their technology solutions were not only not helping them, but they were also actually hurting his bottom line.
  5. They couldn’t get to one consistent answer. All of the data was different and out of date.

Similar to the CIO on our panel, his company wanted to invest into the systems that make his company grow – order entry, marketing and distribution systems. He went to talk to his CIO and they agreed that they did not want to be in the business of building and maintaining hardware for the back-office. They wanted a cloud-based accounting system and cloud-based HR system that scale and automate their many manual functions, and provide real time accurate data.

He and his CIO were well versed in the cloud already. You might need to help your company understand the benefits of cloud-applications. Three of the most popular are:

Benefit No. 1:  No infrastructure required. You do not need to buy, build or maintain any part of the technology stack. This allows you to allocate resources more efficiently.

Benefit No. 2:  Automatic updates. With old-school systems, you had to do a painful upgrade project every few years just to keep your systems up to date. With the cloud, the vendor updates your applications 2-3 times a year with little effort required on your end with new features and functions you can use immediately.

Benefit No. 3:  One version. With true multi-tenant cloud applications, there is only one version of the code. That means that all customers are on the same solution. When one customer finds a bug, the vendor fixes for everyone instantaneously. I asked the CFO how many bugs he had found. He responded none. I guarantee that there were bugs, but someone found it first and the vendor responded before it ever impacted him.

Our CFO ended the discussion with a comment and a bit of advice for our audience.

Comment: He said that by deploying cloud-based accounting systems not only was he able to free up IT resources, but he was able to turn his team into analysts vs. data processors. He was able to become a more strategic finance function.

Advice: Look for outside help as you start this journey. He thought he had a good feel for all of the systems and could handle the selection on his own. He realized a month in that he needed someone who not only knew the market, but could also drive the process to ensure that they selected the right solution. He stuck with the CIO’s house analogy and said, “I could complete the kitchen renovation myself, but without the right tools, experience and time . . . I would make a mess, have things not be quite right and probably cause marital strife.” The same was true in selecting with my cloud-based accounting system.

In the part three of our series, we get the story from a visionary in operations who looked at the status quo and thought, "There must be a better way."

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