Traditional nine-to-five, office-based working is a long-established norm for those in finance, with many processes reliant on face-to-face communication and on-premise IT systems.
Despite the advent of highly capable mobile devices and cloud-based software, it would be fair to say that a significant proportion of organisations have not moved too far away from this model.
The Covid-19 pandemic however, has seen cloud ERP adoption and usage dramatically increase as government restrictions require finance departments to shift to completely remote operations.
This unprecedented situation is accelerating an evolution in working practises that was already on the cards. However, it would have likely taken a few more years of cultural and technological transformation rather than the overnight pivot we have seen.
For those finance departments and CFOs who had already embraced new technology, this shift has been challenging but manageable. It’s been far less straight forward for those still reliant on legacy IT systems, and in particular, on-premise ERP software.
As a former Group Financial Controller, I’m well aware of the pressure this move to remote working will have added to incredibly stretched finance teams already trying to cope with volatile demand, supply chain delays and reduced capacity through illness and furlough.
Thankfully, modern finance software, such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance and its Power BI tools can provide all the communication, reporting and analysis tools needed to deliver the highest levels of support completely remotely.
Remote transformation – the cloud coming into its own
Even during the lockdown we are seeing organisations rapidly replacing legacy ERP systems that are no-longer fit for purpose.
This is made possible precisely because the software can be accessed online, and stakeholders can work together remotely to configure the new system using collaboration tools such as SharePoint and Teams.
The benefits of cloud ERP software such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance, are particularly pertinent during these difficult times and include:
- Accessibility: With departments and teams now dispersed and working from home, the ability for employees to securely access an ERP system using just an internet enabled device is a game changer.
- Flexibility: In these uncertain times, ERP systems need to be capable of supporting change now and during a phased return to normality. The architecture of cloud-based systems makes them highly responsive, with adaptions, tested and rolled out quickly and remotely.
- Automation: Given the limitations and capacity pressures many finance departments find themselves under, the RPA (Robotic Process Automation) capabilities of cloud solutions are crucial. Rules can be set to automatically deal with payroll, supplier payments, invoice reconciliation and a host of other administrative tasks.
- Business Intelligence: At this time of great uncertainty, ERP systems that support timely, data-led decision making are key. When it comes to monitoring, reporting and forecasting, modern finance software, such as Microsoft’s Power BI, can deliver business intelligence at a whole different level. Powerful data analytics capabilities will be essential to the forecasting and modelling that will need to be done over the difficult weeks and months ahead.
The cloud and mobile working is here to stay
Whilst the full impact of Covid-19 is unknown, it’s safe to assume the challenges organisations and their finance departments face will persist for some time.
The new way of working that has been thrust upon us is likely to become the ‘new normal’ and will drive rapid adoption of cloud technology in those organisations yet to fully embrace the trend.
Whilst it might feel counter intuitive to invest in a cloud-based modern finance system right now, doing so will ensure your organisation has the flexibility and resilience needed as we move through this global crisis and beyond.
Richard Baxter is a former Group Financial Controller and qualified Accountant. He is now Financial Applications Director at technology consultancy and certified Microsoft Gold Partner, Tisski