Finance in the Cloud: Why the Conversation Has Changed

In my role, I spend a lot of time discussing how finance in the cloud has evolved. As I look ahead at this year, I realize those conversations have fundamentally changed.

There used to be a lot of talk about whether the cloud was secure enough to manage an organization’s financials. Adding to these anxieties were questions about the maturity of cloud-based finance systems and the lack of successful use cases from large, global enterprises.

Now the conversation has moved beyond debating “Why cloud?” for finance to “I’m ready for finance in the cloud—what can it do for my business?” Here is why the conversation has shifted and some of the big opportunities for companies using cloud-based finance systems:

The cloud is proven. The cloud has become the preferred choice for HR and CRM applications, and we’re now seeing large, global enterprises select the cloud for finance including Aon and Cushman & Wakefield. These organizations have done their due diligence and know that cloud-based systems can handle complex financial transactions and reporting requirements, with the controls in place to ensure data integrity and compliance.

The cloud is good for growth. For most companies, the focus in 2016 will be identifying new opportunities for growth. A big part of the strategy for driving growth will require companies to leverage analytics for real-time insights that can help them make quicker, more informed decisions. In fact, David Rae, CEO at Allied Global, told us that having finance in the cloud “contributes to our strategy going forward as it relates to growth, expansion, and new opportunities for our clients and our employees.”

Organizations have done their due diligence and know cloud-based systems can handle complex financial transactions and reporting requirements.

To keep up with the pace of business today, companies also need the ability to scale operations and enter new markets quickly and easily. Of course, here at Workday, we use our own cloud-based finance system, and the impact for us in growing and scaling our business has been significant.

Our Chief Financial Officer Robynne Sisco wrote last year about her experience with finance in the cloud versus legacy systems. “Traditional financial management systems add a lot of time, cost, and complexity to market expansions. It’s a big effort that can span six months or more.” In the cloud, Sisco wrote, “I can configure full procure-to-pay and order-to-cash functionality for a new operating entity in about 30 minutes, eliminating the need for offline accounting and processes.”

The cloud supports the strategic finance team. Finance teams are increasingly being asked to provide more data and insights to business leaders across the organization. Cloud-based finance systems with built-in analytics can analyze historical and real-time operational data to not only surface insights about what has happened and is happening in the business, but also deliver predictions about what might happen next. Easy access to this data enables finance to focus more on strategy in their conversations with business leaders and management and continuously plan and make adjustments based on business demand and market dynamics.

Joseph Fanutti, CFO at Allied Global, told us a cloud-based finance system has “allowed us to make data-driven decisions based on fact, which enables us to hit our strategic objectives, and ultimately be successful for our customers.”

I expect we’ll hear more of these stories in the year ahead from finance executives who have made the jump to the cloud and are realizing all the opportunities that come with it. The changing nature of these conversations convinces me that we’re at a tipping point for cloud-based financial management. I’m excited to be part of the conversation and share our experiences.