By Hugh Scantlebury, founder and CEO, Aqilla
Finance teams are a key component of any successful organisation. As well as their pivotal analysis, management, reporting and governance responsibilities, modern, high-performing financial professionals play a growing part in shaping direction and growth strategy.
In recent years, the finance professional’s role has evolved from its traditional silo into a more integrated element of business planning, strategy and operations. Today, many finance professionals are focusing on providing wide-ranging advice to their teams and colleagues, identifying new opportunities and helping deliver the overall organisational vision.
However, to keep adding value at all levels, CFOs and finance teams need to embed finance across the firm, which relies on the right supporting technology. In particular, cloud-based technologies, where software is often delivered ‘as a service’ are helping finance professionals and their teams embrace new opportunities, automate manual processes and release time to develop a more integrated, strategic role where business growth is the objective.
So, what does cloud-based software provide that traditional finance and accounting technologies can’t, and how does this help enhance the role and capabilities of finance professionals?
The inherent cost-efficiency of many of today’s cloud-based services provides a win-win for finance. In contrast to the lump sum payments often required for traditional software solutions, cloud-based software often offers the convenience of a monthly pay-as-you-go model. This widens the potential to test and invest in a broader range of software solutions, giving finance teams specialist technologies that can be geared to their precise requirements. Rather than working to parameters set out by inflexible legacy technologies, there is now a vast range of affordable cloud-based products designed to address specific financial functions or focused on niche industries or markets.
Collaboration technologies have grown hugely in importance over the last 12 months, becoming pivotal to the ability of finance teams to keep operating efficiently when working remotely. This trend has long-term significance, with the most innovative finance teams building cloud-based collaborative services into their core processes. This is not just about convenience. The growth of collaboration software has allowed many finance teams to improve efficiency and build digital innovation into their strategy – for broader business impact and benefit.
Artificial intelligence and automation
The market for cloud-based finance and accounting software is a vibrant, innovative and growing ecosystem, with a wide range of products and services providing comprehensive capabilities for professional finance departments. In particular, the development of Artificial Intelligence and automation capabilities within cloud-based software means finance teams have tools that learn and understand various business processes. This results in tasks being run accurately and efficiently without the requirement for manual input. As a result, the likelihood of errors occurring whilst automating time-consuming tasks can be significantly reduced, even when decisions are required throughout the process. Time saved on manual tasks can then be better directed to wider strategic goals.
Similarly, many cloud-based finance software solutions now offer specialised compliance capabilities, improving efficiency, accuracy and saving time for this critical part of the job. Even for the most niche requirements, there is often a software provider whose technology has been written to meet compliance rules/ Often saving users considerable time and effort.
Businesses operating in an era of digital transformation can only thrive if their infrastructure and data are secure. Finance teams can’t be expected to maximise their impact if their technology is at risk from a cybersecurity breach. Or worse still, they are distracted from still-important tasks by a malware or hacking attack. The best examples of cloud software services place enormous significance on security. With data protection, backup services and their ability to deal with common security issues, such as ransomware, helping finance teams focus on growth.
As roles and responsibilities continue to evolve, the reliance finance professionals place on their preferred technology solutions and services will grow. By embracing tech-led innovation, the finance function can add significant value to every aspect of their organisations and play a pivotal role in meeting business objectives and accelerating growth.