Financial Professionals Count Cloud Pros and Cons

Cloud-based technology increasingly provides a way for financial professionals to focus on their time-sensitive projects, while gaining independence from their IT departments.

“IT organizations, whether they are small or large, tend to be pretty well booked,” says Rob Hull, president and founder of Adaptive Insights, which provides cloud business intelligence and corporate performance management solutions. “They are a busy crew, often a bit understaffed and often with a backlog of projects that need to be done. Finance tends to feel that their projects don’t necessarily get priority.”

In mid-July, Adaptive Insights released the results of its “Financial Impact Report: Predictions and Trends” survey, an online poll of 325 financial professionals. The survey reveals that 23 percent of those financial professionals said the top advantage to adopting cloud-based technology solutions was the decreased reliance on IT departments.

“Being able to, ostensibly, put finance back in control of solving the business problems without making IT a bottleneck is a really big issue to them,” Hull says.

Perhaps not surprisingly, cost savings and affordability ranked second, with 21 percent of financial professionals listing it among the top advantages. This may be particularly relevant for small companies that lack the budget of larger companies, according to Hull.

Finally, 19 percent of financial professionals indicated that ease of use, including a consumer-friendly interface, was a top of advantage of switching to cloud-based solutions. This may be because finance professionals want intuitive technologies that do not require massive amounts of training and education.

“This is a very critical aspect of cloud adoption,” Hull says. “A lot of cloud vendors have realized that clunky, not-very-intuitive software is not necessarily the way to go. … As a result, you’re now seeing enterprise software that has more of a consumer look and feel.”

Despite these benefits and others—including increased collaboration and integration with other platforms—47 percent of all the surveyed professionals said they were not sure that tasks such as financial analysis, forecasting and planning would become more efficient through the use of cloud-based technology solutions. Another 31 percent said that these financial processes would improve, while 22 percent said they would not.

According to Hull, this is a matter of education and that, typically, as soon as professionals adopt cloud-based technologies, they immediately become aware of the advantages. He adds that in some companies, a 50 to 75 percent improvement in cycle time has been seen in the budgeting process.

“Once implemented, the question of whether or not [cloud-based technologies] save time becomes an absolute ‘yes,'” he says. “I think the survey leads to the conclusion that there is still some education that needs to be done.”

Finally, 40 percent of the professionals surveyed indicated that they prefer conducting financial planning through the use of Excel documents on a desktop PC, topping the 33 percent who prefer using cloud solutions with a desktop PC for financial planning and forecasting. Hull attributes this to the amount of comfort and long-standing familiarity that exists with Excel, but says the idea is to provide solutions that look and feel as close to that platform as possible, while also meeting a company’s specific processes and needs.

“It’s ultimately about rapid time to value,” Hull points out. “Implementations are short, learning is short, and what you find with cloud applications is the ability to go from problem to solution in a much shorter period of time.”