Is moving your financial reporting systems to the cloud a good idea? Should accounting and finance teams adopt cloud financial solutions, or is it better to keep all your data under your own roof?
As accounting and finance professionals get comfortable with new technologies, more companies are embracing cloud computing — a broad term that describes a range of online-based software and services, eliminating the need for in-house servers and locally installed systems.
More interest in cloud financial solutions
The number of financial systems being managed in the clouds is growing, according to the financial executives surveyed in the latest Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report from Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF).
Of the U.S. respondents, more than half (55 percent) are using cloud technology — exclusively for 11 percent — in their accounting and finance functions, and 20 percent plan to do so in the future. That leaves just a quarter of the executives who have no plan to adopt the technology and opt to keep all of their data in-house.
Find out how adoption of financial cloud-based solutions is on the rise.
As one financial executive said in this year's report, “I'm a big fan of cloud-based computing just because of the reduced cost on our internal infrastructure side. And as our business grows — we are already processing thousands of transactions a day — our data storage requirements will become massive. A cloud solution will help us to scale.”
An overview of the cloud's benefits
Unlike previous years, financial executives interviewed for the report had few, if any, reservations about using cloud technology. They said they're also using automation in processes such as invoicing, data collection, financial report generation, forecasting and documentation storage and compliance.
Some of the benefits include the following:
- Cost savings — When maintenance and support costs are built into the subscription-based, pay-as-you-go pricing of cloud applications, companies typically can save on hardware, software, upgrades, tech support and licensing.
- Resource savings — Many companies are choosing to outsource their payroll and tax duties using the cloud financial solutions.
- Information sharing — The cloud allows spreadsheets to be accessed from anywhere, which can enhance communications with users, such as clients or colleagues in other locations, if reports need to be shared.
- Collaboration — A cloud services platform enhances user mobility and provides companies with a continuous, mobile-ready connection that syncs data instantly wherever there’s internet access.
- Time savings — A cloud-based software program, or a cloud app, is often easier to learn and use than in-house application. Once everyone has been trained and the transition has taken place, these solutions can greatly reduce the amount of time spent crunching numbers and producing financial statements.
- Security — Many industry experts say cloud computing has more security benefits than traditional in-house systems. Cloud vendors must adhere to strict International Organization for Standardization (ISO) security standards and are subject to regular security audits.
Budgeting and long-range planning tools
When it comes to budgeting and long-range planning tools, Microsoft Excel remains the software tool of choice for finance and accounting professionals, according to the Benchmarking report. But its use has dropped to 63 percent of U.S companies, down six points from last year.
Survey responses indicate that Excel is most popular with firms of less than $25 million in revenue. Sixty-nine percent of executives at small companies rated Excel as their go-to tool for budgeting and planning, but that's down from 78 percent in 2017.
Excel can be used and shared using cloud storage systems, such as Dropbox and Google Drive, of course. And with Excel Online, spreadsheets can be stored on Microsoft OneDrive.
Migrating to the future
This year's Benchmarking survey spotlights how cloud computing is converging with automation, financial systems and digital transformation efforts to create demand for different skills in today's accounting and finance functions. Ten percent of the respondents said they need workers with knowledge of cloud-based systems.
There are many ways for organizations to employ cloud financial solutions. For example, they can look to business systems and IT consultants for assistance with evaluating, implementing and getting the most value from these transitions.
Need help moving to the cloud or setting up the necessary security protocols? Robert Half Technology can help you find the IT professionals you need.
For employers, managers, employees and job seekers, it’s a good idea to stay current with the changes brought on by the advent of technology. Whether you like it or not, cloud-based solutions are changing the way accounting and finance professionals work, providing more effective tools, reducing manual processes, increasing productivity and opening doors for new business models.
Bottom line: Don’t fear a move to the cloud.