Why CFOs Should Not Fear the Cloud

Jeff Haslow, CFO, Knowland Group
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Jeff Haslow, CFO, Knowland Group

There are many compelling reasons to conquer your fears and move your accounting and finance applications through the integrated delivery of business applications over the internet (the “Cloud”, Software as a Service or SaaS).

The cloud has impacted all of us as consumers with sites such as Amazon, Google, Facebook and Twitter. Most of us are also probably using some basic web enabled business applications such as GoToMeetings or Webex. Today there are also SaaS business applications with mature feature sets and world class operations for financial planning, customer/sales order management and accounting.

As CFO of The Knowland Group, I moved the organization from a QuickBooks and spreadsheet heavy environment to a completely integrated, cloud based one including: Accounting (Intacct), Budgeting and Planning (Adaptive Planning), Payroll (ADP), Credit Card Processing (2CP), Banking (Silicon Valley Bank), Document Storage (Dropbox), Document Production (Office 365 and Adobe Pro) and our internal CRM and production platforms. While doing so, we were a rapidly growing Inc 500 company, took on our first outside investment and did not have to increase the size of the accounting and finance staff.  So what’s stopping you?

Fear #1: Security Issues and Loss of Data Control

This is the biggest fear I have heard from other CFOs, but ask yourself: “Is my data safer in a Fortune 100 class data center with continuous backup, disaster recovery and SAS70 Certification or on my local server or desktop that is subject to crashing and may or may not have been backed up recently?”

Prior to moving to SaaS, our accounting and finance team bore the brunt of a server crash. The server was supposed to have been backed up, but was not, and the last backup that was done could not be restored properly. We lost four days of work and spent thousands of dollars rebuilding the accounting database. This was in addition to already frequent downtime for maintenance releases, integration patches, hardware upgrades and data center outages.

With SaaS, your data is always accessible and you are always using the latest version. You will not be relying on IT to keep you operating or have to wait for them to respond to your requests. You will be able to support simultaneous users in multiple locations while maintaining the proper segregation of duties and required controls.

Fear #2: The time and financial investment

Yes, you will have to spend some time and effort to implement a new system and migrate your data, but ask yourself: “How much time am I wasting with my current legacy systems that are localized, not integrated, and dominated by manual processes, error-prone spreadsheets and duplicate data entry?”

SaaS will allow you to become more efficient by providing a fully integrated system. It eliminates redundancy, reduces errors, speeds up processing, shortens your closing cycle and allows you to spend more time on analysis and planning. You will be able to execute best practices. You and your colleagues will be able to see your data and use your applications from anywhere at any time of the day or night. 

“We need the ability to move beyond reporting and compliance to focusing on decision support and driving strategies for value creation”

Our DC based company is affected by city wide shut downs during snow and other weather emergencies. (My Boston and Chicago friends laugh at this, but are it is a real phenomenon. My Atlanta friends are much more understanding.) This winter was especially brutal with five snow days. Remote capability allowed managers to access dashboards, reports and on-line approvals while the accounting staff was able to send invoices out on time and meet reporting deadlines. Staff members have also been able to extend maternity leave or care for sick family members while working from home. I can travel without missing a beat. Updating forecasts, monitoring metrics, approving transactions, and providing emailed reports can all be done from my laptop, tablet or phone. This drives greater productivity and reliability.

From a financial perspective, ROI is easy to prove. You pay for only what you need and scale as you grow. You are no longer paying for hardware, IT support, maintenance contracts and upgrades. Improved processing efficiency will allow you to grow without adding staff. 

As CFOs are being pressured to act more as a business partners with insight into value drivers and to become an integral participant in strategic decisions, we need the ability to move beyond reporting and compliance to focusing on decision support and driving strategies for value creation. SaaS will allow you to make better and faster decisions by giving you real time, anywhere access to a central repository of information for you, your staff, management team and employees-a single version of the truth. You will have instant, dynamic feedback from the ability to monitor KPIs and drill down into the underlying details. You will create and share multiple scenarios. You can do all that and reduce overall costs.

Conquer your fears. SaaS will make you a CFO rock star.

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