Sheltering Financial Applications in the Cloud

As financial services are called upon to be more agile than ever, the need for fast and reliable payments software is growing. The impact of cloud computing and effective managed services providers cannot be overlooked.

What are the things keeping senior finance managers and executives awake at night? The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown have put many finance departments under even greater pressure than before. Mark Vivian, CEO at Claremont, describes to Finance Monthly how the growing demand for financial services can be met using cloud technology.

Organisations are under pressure to grow revenues and cut costs. Businesses need to be more agile than ever before in order to survive and thrive in today’s economy. There’s also the latest finance regulation (e.g. IFRS16) that needs to be adhered to, or legislative changes that need to be made (e.g. HMRC’s Furlough Scheme).

It’s important that the day-to-day running of the finance department can keep going too: invoices continue to be raised, and cash collected. Supplier invoices processed and paid. Employees paid correctly and on time.

Choosing the Right Finance System

When choosing the right finance system, there are number of important considerations businesses need to take into account. This will be largely centred around functionality and whether businesses can find a finance system that is part of a wider set of integrated business applications, such as HR, Payroll, and CRM. Oracle’s E-Business Suite is a great example of this.

As part of their functionality consideration, businesses will also need to consider their specific use cases. For example, is the requirement to have a finance system capable of supporting global organisations working in multiple territories, with multi-currencies and multi-languages, and also local country legislation?

Organisations also need to consider whether they are happy to adopt largely standard “best practice” business processes, which usually necessitates business change, or whether to use customisation to the standard product so that it reflects the way your business works.

Ground to Cloud

Lots of organisations that we work with have a “Cloud First” strategy, and have “Ground to Cloud” initiatives, moving their key business systems from their own data centres into the cloud. “Cloud” is a ubiquitous term, but it has a number of different meanings. When we are considering choosing the best finance system, there are typically two main choices:  cloud-based applications and infrastructure cloud.

Choosing a suite of cloud-based financial applications offers businesses the benefit of streamlining their IT environment and business processes; procured as SaaS, typically over a 3-year duration.

Choosing infrastructure cloud on the other hand allows you to move your on-premise applications from physical hardware to a cloud platform, replacing the typical arrangement of leasing hardware with the rental of infrastructure cloud. It has lots of benefits, not least the fact that under the old model, IT departments had to predict future business activity for the next 5 years and size up and purchase hardware for the next 5 years on that basis.

A move to cloud infrastructure provides a much more flexible arrangement, where compute and storage resources can be flexed up and down in tune with the organisation’s requirements, either in the long term, or perhaps on a seasonal basis if your business volume requires it.

Partnering with a Managed Services Provider

Whichever model you choose to use for your finance applications and services, it’s vital to use it correctly and get the most out of your investment. Using a complex piece of software is a bit like running a Formula 1 car. It requires a team of expert engineers, with differing specialities, working on it in order to optimise it and make it perform at its best. This is where partnering with a managed service provider (MSP) can make a big difference.

Whichever model you choose to use for your finance applications and services, it’s vital to use it correctly and get the most out of your investment.

A managed service provider can work alongside your internal finance and IT teams to do this:

  • Firstly, they’ll provide “fix on fail” support through an Incident Management process, and this will typically be against a Service Level Agreement (SLA) for both responding to and resolving the Incidents.
  • Next is Problem Management; getting to the root causes of Incidents that are encountered and resolving them so that they don’t reoccur.
  • An MSP will also help you with Change Management, dealing with all of those modifications that will come up over time as your business changes, or you have to comply with changing legislation.
  • Finally, a good MSP will be proactive, and make suggestions for how you can optimise your financial applications, perhaps utilising new functionality to improve efficiency and save money.

We saw a great example of helping a Managed Services customer with critical and urgent Change work earlier in the year, when The National Trust came to us wanting to take advantage of the government furlough initiative during the COVID-19 pandemic to support their staff and protect their organisations as their sites began to close. We were able to configure their payroll solution to meet their requirements within a very short space of time.

The end product was deployed rapidly, automatically calculating the rebate amount for each employee, gave each employee a professional standard of notification, and required minimal payroll intervention. The first payroll runs of the month began on the 16th April and by the 25th April the National Trust had successfully processed over 14,000 employees through their payrolls.

Bringing it Together

The pace of change is increasing, putting finance departments under greater pressure than before and COVID-19 has presented an extra challenge over recent months. Many organisations are using Oracle E-Business software to run their finance and procurements processes. There are options to replace this with cloud-based applications, or to redeploy it on cloud infrastructure to help meet business drivers. Working with the right Managed Services provider can help you to optimise your existing software and help you to deliver real business benefit.

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