July 14, 2017
How to Enable the Finance Department Cloud Transformation
Posted by Carl Anderson
In my last post, I discussed how moving to cloud-based financial software can help companies address the problems of an under-performing financial system and overworked finance department. (For the skeptics out there, industry analyst firm Gartner also touts the benefits for finance departments making the cloud transformation in its 2016 report titled “Finance Moving to the Cloud: The Steps to Take and the Benefits You Can Expect.”)
For the sake of this post, we’ll assume that you’ve already won over the hearts and minds of your team for a move to the cloud and a transformation of the department. Now, let’s look at how to make it happen.
Putting together the plan
First of all, forget the implementations you’ve been through in the past. Deploying a new cloud-based financial system can be faster and far more streamlined than it was for the legacy systems you’ve used. Whereas older financial systems could take 12 to 18 months or longer to implement, you can be up and running on your new cloud solution in a few months. In fact, most cloud deployments can be completed in a six-month timeframe. (Some can even be done in a few short weeks for those who have experience with previous implementations.)
To create your cloud transformation plan, there are three major aspects that you should consider:
- Pick your people
You’ll want your top people on this project. For example, identify the person in your organization with the best technical skills and give him or her responsibility for understanding the new system and how your company can best utilize its capabilities. Next, determine who has the best organizational or project management skills. Give that person the role of project manager for the deployment. You may also need a liaison to help others in the company understand what is happening, and when and how it will impact their roles. Assign someone to that role, too, and so on.
Don’t underestimate the importance of training, because it’s essential that everyone gets up to speed as quickly as possible and can efficiently and effectively use the new software. Organize a training class for users within your organization. One way to do this is to train “super users” who can then train others within the company and help answer their questions after the implementation.
- Rethink your processes
New technology alone won’t fix your business processes. So avoid viewing the move to a cloud-based financial system as simply a replacement for your current technology, without taking the opportunity to rethink your processes. Which ones can be streamlined? Which ones are made obsolete through the new capabilities of the software?
Also consider which processes you can re-engineer or create from scratch to take advantage of capabilities that you didn’t have before. For example, think about your processes around reporting and how having real-time, consolidated data at your fingertips might change how and when you generate reports.
- Plan for increments of change with the new technology
Your new cloud-based financial system will be the catalyst for all the changes you want to bring about. However, making all the changes at once can be daunting. That’s why your deployment plan should identify and prioritize the capabilities you want to have. Want to go paperless? How about getting more in-depth and flexible reporting options? Put them in your plan.
Plan for what you feel are the absolute must-have capabilities in the initial rollout of the new system. Then, create mini-projects for those capabilities that may take more time and effort. The idea is to have an overall strategy and vision for what you want to achieve. Build a roadmap that delivers tangible benefits as quickly as possible, with further benefits at regular intervals to achieve your vision of a transformed financial department.
Don’t reinvent the wheel
Keep in mind that you don’t have to go about the transformation alone. Working with an implementation partner can allow you to deploy the new software more quickly and easily while avoiding pitfalls. For example, the right partner can help you:
- Set goals for transformation
- Define the future state
- Define roles and responsibilities for the new environment
- Assess, revise and optimize your business processes
- Standardize processes and charts of accounts
- Deploy your new financial software
Be sure to look for a partner with extensive experience in deploying the cloud-based solution you’ve chosen, as well as deep accounting and finance expertise. That way, you’re getting the full benefit of proven industry best practices to help you with a successful cloud transformation.
Here’s one final thought: Gartner expects that cloud-based deployment will be the dominant model across all areas of financial management applications by 2025. Do you want to be the last one to the cloud?
Find out more cloud solutions and strategies with Armanino to enable your finance department with a cloud transformation.