3 things a CFO should know about the cloud
– I would generally describe myself as a bit of a Luddite when it comes to technology – I love to use it, but have no clue how it actually works!
The pivotal change
As a CFO of over 20 years, the vast majority of my day is spent using technology in one form or another. Whether it is the accounting package, the ERP (Enterprise resource planning), the CRM (Customer relationship management), accessing databases, using spreadsheets, online banking to name a few.
As CFO I am responsible for a large IT spend: from hardware refreshes, major server lifecycle management, or software. This is the norm within any sector in the 24/7 working world of today.
However, since the advent of the cloud, my life as a CFO has become so much easier, and the benefits of moving to the cloud have had an impact on a number of areas of the business. I thought I would share the three most important benefits that companies enjoy by adopting a cloud first, mobile first approach.
Access to information anytime, anywhere
No longer is the business reliant on on-premise servers to deliver access to line of business applications, databases, documents and accounting software. No longer do you need to be physically at your desktop PC to receive your emails and access your documents.
By having all of your servers in the cloud, you can access all of your information at any time, and with services such as OneDrive you can even access your documents when you are not online. As soon as you get back into a Wi-Fi zone, it will sync with the cloud.
“Information technology and business are becoming inextricably interwoven. I don’t think anybody can talk meaningfully about one without the talking about the other.”Bill Gates
Accessing the tools
This brings substantial benefits to a business, such as those where personnel can access their data from the train, a coffee shop or a client’s lobby. Allowing staff to be more productive and experience less down time. Even if the office is out of action, the business can continue to function as if nothing had happened.
No longer is the car breaking down or having to wait in for the plumber an excuse for a day off! A business can get more bang for its buck by utilising its workforce in a more efficient way, which in itself generates huge savings in personnel utilisation and resource maximisation.
Accessing your work everywhere
Another huge benefit of accessing your data in the cloud is the way in which you can manage your documents and, in particular, version control. The features are seen in products such as SharePoint and Microsoft Office 365. These tools allow a business to tailor the user experience to each individual, with team sites and dashboards being set up to display only the documents and data that an individual member of staff is able to access.
Version control can be a nightmare within a business, with multiple people working on the same document, and different versions being emailed to each other to add various changes. This is not a problem with the cloud as Microsoft Office 365 allows multiple users to collaborate on the same document at the same time – you can even see what each person is doing within the document!
Losing documents is a thing of the past, as even if a document is inadvertently saved in error, you can go back to any version of that document, and even see who last amended that version and exactly what time it was changed!
Staff members are used to using many different devices in their personal lives, including smartphones, tablets and laptops – all of these devices can be used to access their work data and emails, and everything syncs perfectly so that their experience on their desktop PC is identical to their personal device.
Keep the cash in the bank
Software as a service (SaaS) does what it says on the tin, you pay for what you use. With the cloud a business can scale from one server to ten thousand and back again depending on what the needs of the business.
Traditional on-premise IT comes with the heavy burden of lifecycle costs, with servers having a relatively short life and needing replacement on a regular basis. This will typically eat into the cash budget, requiring a robust plan to ensure that the business can keep working while the CFO manages the cash.
With cloud computing the costs are moved from CAPEX to OPEX, giving the CFO a simple monthly budget to deal with. By knowing the growth plans of the business it is easy to plan the IT spend, as the costs scale along with the growth. This coupled with the fact that the services are generally paid for on a monthly basis, allows the cash to stay in the bank and be available to accelerate growth in other areas of the business.
“There are two kinds of big companies out there. There are those who’ve been hacked…and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked.”James Comey, FBI Director
One of the most important elements of an IT system, particularly from the CFO’s perspective, is security, both of the data within the system and of the system itself.
With traditional on-premise servers’ backups of data are manual and onerous, with the media used to store the backup having to be taken off site and stored securely each day. With a cloud based solution, this is just not an issue. By using applications such as Carbonite or Keep it Safe, backups are online and automated, and they are stored in the cloud for use whenever you need them. This is a massive benefit to the organisation as the data is always backed up and always accessible, from anywhere.
The security of the data is another key benefit of moving to the cloud. A scary statistic that 90% of businesses have attempts to hack their data in the past year, and of those 35% were hacked more than 3 times*. By having your data in the cloud the nightmare scenario of having your servers hacked is a thing of the past. Just think how much more money Microsoft spend on the security of their 76 data centres than an average company spends on their own data security!
In my experience, moving your business to the cloud is not a matter of why, but a matter of when. To give your staff more agility, your business a higher return on its resource costs and yourself peace of mind should make the decision a very easy one.
What are your thoughts on the matter?
What are your favourite features on the cloud?
Which technologies are most beneficial to CFOs?