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? It depends on whom you ask.
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 services, eliminating the need for in-house servers and locally installed software.
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 2017 Benchmarking the Accounting & Finance Function report from Robert Half and Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF).
Of the U.S. respondents, 11 percent said they use only cloud-based solutions, 40 percent said they’ve adopted some cloud technology, and 21 percent said they’re actively exploring the options of using it, leaving just 28 percent who still opt to keep all of their data in-house. A year ago, 38 percent said they aren’t making that leap.
Download the latest Benchmarking report to see how adoption of financial cloud-based solutions is growing.
As one financial executive said in this year's report, “I expect our accounting and finance systems will be cloud-based by next year. When the server support contracts for our on-premises software expire, we plan to move to the cloud with our existing vendor.”
Slight increases in cloud-based ERP systems
Most accounting and finance organizations in North America still rely on stand-alone accounting systems. The overall percentage of respondents in the Benchmarking report who report their organization uses an on-premise enterprise resource planning (ERP) system as their primary financial system held steady this year. Only slight increases were seen in the adoption of cloud-based ERP systems, used by 15 percent of U.S companies.
An overview of the cloud's benefits
Cloud proponents say there are more benefits than drawbacks, including 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 network cloud.
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 n
eed 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 69 percent of U.S. companies surveyed in the Benchmarking report, up slightly from 2016. Survey responses indicate that Excel is especially popular with smaller companies: More than three-quarters (78 percent) of businesses with less than $25 million in revenues said they use Excel for budgeting and planning.
Excel can be used and shared using cloud storage systems. With Excel Online, web browsers can be used to create, view and edit workbooks stored on Microsoft OneDrive or Dropbox.
Migrating to the future
There are many ways for organizations to employ cloud computing. They can look to business systems and IT consultants for assistance with evaluating, implementing and getting the most value from cloud-based solutions.
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 cloud-based technology. Whether you like it or not, cloud-based solutions are changing the way accounting and finance professionals work, providing more effective tools and opening doors for new business models.
Bottom line: Don’t fear a move to the cloud.
Do you need to hire a temporary accounting professional to free up some time for you to pursue cloud-based solutions?
Andy Denka is executive vice president of Accountemps, and John Reed is senior executive director of Robert Half Technology.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated recently to reflect more current information.