Are you struggling to do complex financial accounting efficiently using Excel or outdated software?
Are you drowning in reams of paper, spending seemingly endless hours inputting data and reconciling accounts? Does the prospect of completing a complex financial report for stakeholders give you nightmares?
You could be encountering the all-too-familiar missed deadlines, adding errors, and ultimately experiencing stymied growth because of these inefficient manual processes.
In this piece, we’ll show how software can be used to automate accounting processes, freeing up valuable resources for more productive tasks; we’ll also outline the steps necessary to get everything started.
Here’s what we’ll be covering:
- Still stuck in the mire of manual processes?
- Why cloud software can help
- Connect your data, operations and people in real-time using cloud financial software
- Choosing the correct cloud finance software
- Once your cloud finance software is implemented…
- Final comments on how vital cloud finance could be for the success of your business
Still stuck in the mire of manual processes?
Given the availability of cloud finance software, you may still be using manual spreadsheet-based systems as they’re familiar, and you’re worried about the investment required.
Perhaps you feel you won’t be able to use cloud finance software effectively.
If your business is growing and getting more complex, manual processes will invariably be a handicap as you don’t have the real-time data and insight to operate your business as effectively as you’d like.
James Beattie, founder of WeTested, states that many businesses still rely heavily on manual processes and outdated legacy software, potentially leading to costly financial mismanagement, processing delays, and increased error risks.
James says: “Legacy software can also be a hindrance, as it is often not designed to handle the complexity of modern financial operations.
“It can be difficult to integrate with other systems, leading to a lack of real-time data and insight. This can make it difficult for businesses to make informed decisions, leading to bad outcomes.”
Ian Rose, principal systems consultant at Sage, believes that while legacy tools are still usable, they may not necessarily be the optimal route to the core of your financial numbers.
Ian says, “Manual processes mean that you must typically input the correct information first, which is time-consuming and prone to error.
“Another problematic area is approval processes. If done manually it can lead to huge frustrations.”
Why cloud software can help
Cloud finance software is accessible anytime, from anywhere.
Everything is saved in the cloud, so there’s no worrying about installing or maintaining software on your own server.
In addition to this, since most cloud solutions offer multiple users permission-based access simultaneously, it’s easy for anyone in your organisation to access and view financial reporting without compromising security or privacy policies.
The software is regularly updated and reduces cost
Upgrades are easier in cloud systems as data migration between servers isn’t required; Instead, they can be upgraded by simply effecting changes in the cloud environment.
There’s no need for IT specialists, as these programs automatically update themselves with new features and enhancements from their developers, saving money.
Cloud computing is cheaper than traditional IT infrastructure as it requires less hardware, software licenses, and maintenance costs.
Maintenance costs associated with changing technologies are lower, making life easier in ensuring everything works properly across different departments.
Another plus is that cloud providers often give free trials or special offers, enabling you to trial their services before you pay anything.
Scalability is key
A scalable system can enable you to exploit opportunities as they present themselves. It’s important to ensure your financial systems can keep pace with the needs of your business as it grows.
Cloud systems permit scalability in size (adding users) and functionality (adding features). Your business will be capable of growing rapidly without the worry of accommodating growth or contraction through upgrades or downgrades.
People will also be able to access all the information they need at any time.
Connect your data, operations and people in real-time using cloud financial software
Cloud finance software helps you accelerate growth by connecting your financials, operations, and people in real time, building a solid foundation of growth and agility.
Real-time access to accurate data is vital for decision-making.
Accessible from anywhere in the world, cloud finance software is crucial when using financial data across multiple locations, enabling better, more informed decisions that lead to increased revenue and profitability.
It makes available up-to-the-minute financial information, so you’ll have a complete picture of your business performance, and you’ll be better placed to make the correct decisions regarding resource allocation.
Say, for example, one region has a high sales volume, but low margins compared with others in your business (or even competitors), cloud technology allows you to easily identify this issue before it becomes problematic at other locations.
It’ll help you make smarter decisions about the future strategic direction of your business, including which growth opportunities to invest in, or which unnecessary costs should be reduced or cut.
Sarah Platt, founder and finance partner at Firehaus, says: “As a business owner, you have many decisions to make, which can be overwhelming. Having sound financial information at your fingertips can alleviate much decision-making stress.
“You can go with a strong ‘gut feel’ if it’s backed up by financial data.
“Ideally, a combination of historical figures from management accounts and future-looking figures from forecasts and budgets is a sound way of making confident decisions.
“The data may even challenge that ‘gut feel’ and prevent bad decision-making through lack of insight and analysis.”
Cloud technologies enable businesses to automate accounting or payroll processes by connecting them directly to existing systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP).
Staff trained in using the tools can be granted access, meaning you don’t always need dedicated IT employees.
Choosing the correct cloud finance software
Oana Marele is the founder and managing director of Marele Accountancy with 20 years in senior finance roles across diverse and complex companies and is a consultative finance director to companies across Europe.
She recommends looking for cloud finance software that’s straightforward, simple and user-friendly. The software’s features should cover all relevant aspects of business finance.
Oana adds: “As far as manual bookkeeping goes, there is no comparison to cloud finance software in my opinion.
“A manual bookkeeping system is extremely unproductive, time-consuming and limited in its ability to support a business to operate and grow.”
Migrating from paper or Excel-based accounting can be challenging, but a must if you want to be more efficient and able to cope with changing compliance and business demands.
Here are some suggestions from IDC on choosing the right cloud finance software:
Start by looking inward
Do some self-reflection. Here are a few key questions to ask internally:
What issues would we like to resolve with our existing finance processes?
Are the issues technology-related?
What internal support resources and capabilities do we possess?
How should we define success?
Which internal stakeholders should we include in evaluating the cloud finance software?
How will a new system change the business?
Select the right partners
The first step is to develop a strategy and plan for choosing and putting your cloud finance software in place.
Here are a few key questions you may have for prospective cloud finance software partners:
Do they have experience with my product type, service and company size?
Can they show a hands-on demo with our real live data to demonstrate benefits to the business?
Do they understand the regulations that will have an impact on my business?
How are these regulations reflected in its current product, and how will it change in the future?
What is the partner’s medium to long-term strategic investment outlook? What’s the rationale behind it? How will that change and add value to my business?
Take ownership of the process
You must take a very active role in the actual implementation of the cloud finance software to achieve the best outcome.
Cloud finance can touch upon your back-office systems, involving all aspects of the organisation. Focus on how the cloud finance software is set up and how it interacts with other systems within your business.
Here are a few key questions to ask about your cloud finance software:
What levels of support are available? Are they geographically available?
How should I set up the service-level agreement before signing any contracts?
Can the finance cloud software integrate with our other IT systems and those of my partners?
Which IT system needs to be integrated, and to what degree?
After implementing your cloud finance software…
Post-implementation is crucial, and, in many ways, success depends on what happens once the cloud finance software goes live.
Think about how your people will be impacted. Here are a few key questions to ask:
How are we positioned to handle frequent product updates?
Do we have a strategy to encourage rapid adoption?
Do we have adequate training for employees so they can master the new features within the cloud finance system?
Are we communicating the purpose and benefits of the cloud finance system with our finance team?
Do we have existing policies and procedures aligned to facilitate the adoption of new workflows?
Final comments on how vital cloud finance could be for the success of your business
Given the crucial part finance plays in a business, and with so much riding on having accurate data and making timely decisions, having the right tools at your fingertips is a must.
The right cloud finance software can enable you to become more agile and flexible with workflows and processes, as well as connect your people so you can make better decisions faster.