Making the case for the cloud
According to HubSpot, 86% of ERP software is deployed in the cloud, and Beroe, Inc., reported that the cloud ERP market is expected to grow 10 percent CAGR by 2025. Today, the cloud is the preferred platform for many of the world’s leading businesses—due in part to the increased use of social media, mobile workforces, the internet—but also because the cloud has surpassed on- premises technology in a surprising number of ways.
But that’s true only for managing customer relationships, right? Maybe payroll. But not for core financial or manufacturing operations. That data is too sensitive and processes are too complex.
If you are reading this eBook, you likely fall into one of two camps: You are an advocate for moving your ERP to the cloud and need buy-in from key stakeholders, or you are a skeptic—not convinced the cloud can handle your financials and business processes.
This eBook is designed to address both positions by laying out the case for the cloud and illustrating how a cloud-based solution is superior to its on-premise counterpart when it comes to supporting your finance team. Advocates are armed with the data points they need to build a convincing case, and skeptics will walk away not only less skeptical, but excited about the possibilities presented by the cloud.
However, as with any important decision—and this is especially true for technology—defining your requirements and the best way to address them will go a long way towards making a decision you can feel confident about.
The key is to not make a decision based on fear or misinformation. If you understand exactly what the cloud has to offer and are very clear on your organization’s structure, operations, challenges, and strategic goals, you can determine if it is the right fit for you.
In the end, we believe you will see what other leading organizations have seen—that ERP in the cloud is not only a viable choice, but the right choice.
The basics: How cloud and on-premises differ
Before diving into a discussion of the advantages the cloud presents to CFOs, let’s start with being clear about the basic differences between an application deployed in the cloud versus an on-premises deployment:
The first step is to understand the typical differences between the two deployment strategies.
Understand the advantages of the cloud for Finance
The argument for the cloud to help your business transition to modern finance is a convincing one when you look at the benefits:
Modernized reporting, predictive intelligence, and insights
Today, the importance of using data to make critical decisions is paramount—a competitive differentiator. And as discussed earlier, surfacing intelligence and insights and reporting on that information has become much more sophisticated and predictive with developments like AI and machine learning. The cloud modernizes these processes so you can make informed decisions in real time because you have easy access to timely, accurate, reliable, and verifiable financial data. By giving you the ability to tightly integrate all your operational systems, you get a single source of truth that you can use to build actionable intelligence and deliver more value to the business—which is either very challenging or impossible to do with on-premises technology.
Automated, streamlined financial processes
With the cloud, you have the tools you need to automate and streamline workflows and processes, optimizing the productivity of your workforce and allowing them to focus their efforts on areas that add more value—or do more with less if conditions require, eliminating the need to make staff reductions or hire new staff. You also get the benefit of a dramatically shorter learning curve.
The productivity of your team depends partly on their ability to collaborate effectively. Cloud ERP solutions like Microsoft Dynamics 365 integrate seamlessly with Outlook, Teams, and more, making ERP data, reports, and workflow approvals immediately available—again, without compromising on security and without having to change the productivity tools you have invested in and your people are comfortable using.
Compliance and reduction of risk
Security and compliance are always top of mind for a CFO— especially when it comes to your technology. Reputable cloud software is continuously updated with regulatory certifications, reducing your exposure and protecting your reputation. The cloud ensures other areas like secure connectivity with vendors and partners, enabling you to put controls in place to protect your organization against fraud and cyberattacks.
With the pandemic came the immediate requirement to be able to work from anywhere. Businesses realized that there are many benefits to providing mobility in addition to enabling remote work. Cloud systems are inherently “work anywhere ready,” accommodating work from the office, home, or a combination. Cloud solutions are even accessible through mobile devices, with workflows for many processes, like submitting and approving expense reports, purchase requisitions, or vendor invoices. And because these solutions are in the cloud and being accessed through a browser, employees can be productive without compromising on security.
Attracting and retaining talent
Across the nation, businesses of all types have been struggling with “the great resignation.” Business leaders and CFOs need to make their organizations attractive to talent that is in demand. It is imperative to offer positions that are supported by modern enterprise systems with capabilities that not only reduce frustration but also keep their skills and talents up to date.
There are many more benefits to modernizing finance with cloud technology, with every benefit resulting in cost savings and/or revenue growth. Predictive insights, fraud prevention, automated and streamlined processes, reduced IT footprint, mobility—it all adds up to a healthier bottom line for your business.
Size up your organization
Regardless of which financial management or ERP solution you choose, the decision to go to the cloud hinges on your business requirements, challenges, and goals. No single thing should make or break the decision, and you should not assume that you have to compromise on what you need. Start by getting detailed answers to the following questions:
1. How quickly do you need to go live?
The cloud typically requires the same implementation time; however, as with any implementation, that varies based on the complexity of your solution, and provisioning is definitely faster.
2. What are your security policies or regulatory requirements?
A hosting provider must be able to offer the level of security you require and be able to satisfy any security regulations to which your organization must comply. Some think the cloud is not as secure as on premises, but that is not true. Microsoft, for example, holds more national, international, and industry specific certifications, credentials, and compliance approvals than nearly any single company could obtain on its own.
3. How are end users accessing the system?
Are your employees remote, on your company network, or a combination? Remote employees are more common than ever before. Cloud ERP can be implemented as an extension of your own network, with all the security controls you use today—or it can be designed with full-fledged public access—or anywhere in between. You decide based on your processes and policies.
4. Do you have system integrations?
Integrating with other systems can be simple or more involved and time-consuming, depending on the number and type and whether the system is also in the cloud or is on-premises.
5. What are your reporting requirements?
We have gone past mere reporting. Today, the cloud means machine learning and proactive analytics, which the cloud is more capable of providing than an on-premises solution.
6. What are your backup requirements?
With either option, you need to have a solid backup plan. Today’s cloud can provide you with as much control and flexibility as you require.
Choose your cloud ERP solution
The next step is to choose an ERP software application and a provider. There are many options, but the information provided in this eBook should give you an idea of what you should be looking for so you can narrow down your choices. As a long-time Microsoft partner, we know first-hand the benefits Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers, and we believe any ERP under consideration should offer the same:
Security. Microsoft’s cloud has more than 90 compliances, including SOC 1, SOC 2, and GDPR, and Microsoft’s team of 3,500 cybersecurity experts focus on ensuring the safety of customer data. Internally, Dynamics 365 has customizable settings to deny unauthorized access and the ability to secure data by dimensions ( e.g., Departments).
Cloud-Based. Microsoft Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based solution, enabling everywhere access that saves time and money. Data is centralized and brought onto one platform, getting everyone on the same page.
Plays Well with Others. Because it is Microsoft, there is seamless integration with Excel and other applications. Additionally, it can easily integrate with legacy external applications.
Reliable. Microsoft has concrete service level agreements (SLAs) to minimize downtime, providing greater than 99% availability.
General Ledger. General Ledger is considered by finance professionals to be the most critical module in
ERP software, and Dynamics 365 gets high marks across the board.
Streamlined, Easy UI. Microsoft Dynamics 365 has a streamlined user interface (UI) that is easy to navigate and customizable. Administrators can control the UI via personalization.
Transparency. Microsoft Dynamics 365 enables transparency across the entire organization for more accurate data that equates to faster and better reporting and decision making. Additionally, a seamless integration with Microsoft Power BI enables easy publication of financial dashboards.
Make sure any provider you consider can address each question with viable solutions and relevant experience with other clients.
With over thirty years of working with businesses around the world to design and implement financial management and ERP systems, we use the factors discussed in this guide in every engagement. We walk through them with our clients to help determine the right strategy for their business. With the advancements in cloud technology represented by Dynamics 365, Azure, and other Microsoft products, we believe the cloud is a viable option for nearly any organization.
If you’re considering Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance (ERP), the SaaS (online) option is more popular based on Microsoft’s consistent investment and provided incentives, as well as successful deployments.
Today, the cloud is the preferred option for any company, regardless of size or business model. Although there is no specific checklist to get to the answer for your organization, it becomes clear as business structure, ROI, and requirements come into focus.
If you are evaluating ERP or financial management solutions and are considering the cloud, contact us to see what HSO has to offer.