With this overview in mind, it is worth addressing some of the common misconceptions we’ve observed, specifically within the ranks of finance and accounting professionals:
The largest area of concern is around the security and control aspects of housing business-critical data and applications in a cloud environment. To many companies, the move to the cloud can seem daunting and risky. This is especially true in companies with a large footprint of on-premises applications that can be seen as very secure over the cloud.
The bottom line, however, is that on-prem doesn’t necessarily mean less risky. Cyber criminals are increasingly sophisticated in their approach to stealing data and penetrating systems, and there is a case to be made that cloud companies, with their entire existence predicated on keeping customer data and applications safe, are much more secure than on-prem environments. In fact, a recent global survey of senior IT security professionals by the UK domain registry service Nominet indicated that 61% of security specialists believed cloud-based data and apps were more secure than on-prem data and apps, a marked shift from traditional views.
The role of IT
Another misconception is that the decision to move to the cloud and the timing are technical questions for the IT function to answer. While IT is an important stakeholder, the reality is that business process, business data and business operations are what is moving to the cloud — therefore, it’s a business decision on how and when this will occur. IT has a role in this journey, but the most successful companies are driving their move to the cloud with a business mix of finance, HR and operations leading the way, with the support of IT.
The bottom line is that any assessment of cloud readiness, cloud planning and timing or an evaluation of cloud capabilities need to be a business-led process. IT is also directly impacted, but the transformational aspects of the move versus the technology aspects should be the reason for a move to the cloud.
Data quality and data governance
Many companies don’t fully appreciate the level of effort required to address data quality and data governance issues prior to making a move. While the cloud environment allows speed to value and shorter implementation times, it also requires a fair amount of discipline to prevent customization of the system. This places a premium on data quality and governance, and while these actual processes eventually run smoother on the cloud, the prep work beforehand can be significant.
The broader digital transformation
Cloud capability is just one piece of a digital transformation. It’s an important piece, but without attention paid to other elements of the finance operating model, a move to the cloud will fall well short of expectations. The cloud is an enabler, not an end state. It is critical to optimizing processes and enables important technologies like artificial intelligence and robotics, which must be properly coordinated.
It is important to understand the role that the cloud will play in the future of your company. If you don’t have a plan or an understanding of the road map, it’s time to begin that work now. A well-thought-out road map of the move to the cloud is critical, given some of the investments required and the very real chance of missteps along the way.
It’s also important to do this within the larger context of digital transformation and understand the role the cloud will play within it. Many options and choices must be made that could impact the overall transformation, so have the right business focus and understand the many issues in play with a move to the cloud.
There are huge opportunities for those who get in front of cloud adoption in all parts of their business. Correspondingly, there are huge challenges for those who do not. In any case, the good news is that moving to the cloud is a process filled with options where you can move quickly with manageably sized initiatives while minimizing impact on the organization. In today’s demanding business environment, moving to the cloud is very much a case where moving forward, rather than standing still, is almost always the right choice.