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Finance and Emerging Technologies

In a recent report by the ACCA (http://goo.gl/vLuojJ), CFO’s and the finance function were singled out as not making the best use of emerging technologies to support the business. This was put down to a lack of commitment – but is this really fair?
Finance has historically been a trailblazer in the use of technology. For example, in the 1960’s the first use of business computers was in the accounting function to streamline the production of invoices and the reporting of transactions. Then in the 1980’s, the finance function led the way in the use of personal computers with the use of spreadsheets for planning. 20 years later and the introduction of ERP systems have provided a better way of connecting sales orders with production to minimise waste and make better use of financial resources. And so what about today? Is the finance function still seen as a trailblazer? Well that of course depends on the organisation along with the skills at their disposal and resources. If we look at the area of financial planning, forecasting and analysis, we still see organisations using the spreadsheet - a 1990’s technology. Unfortunately, many of the developments of the past 15 years that can help are often surrounded in hype that doesn’t stand scrutiny, and they’re expensive. Expensive in terms of cost, effort and the support required in their deployment. Take for example many of the mainstream planning systems available today. The cost of buying and implementing can be staggering when compared to a spreadsheet. They also require a good understanding of the technologies that underpin the solution, which will confound most finance staff. As a result it’s no wonder that most organisations have stuck to their spreadsheets despite their inherent problems.
But things are changing and Finance can once again become a trailblazer. The advent of cloud computing and apps has made a big difference to the cost of ownership. For example they don’t require the customer to buy software or hardware on which to run it. What’s more these cloud vendors, like Financial Driver, are extremely simple to set up and use, which means systems take just hours to learn and applications can be set up in just a few days. And given there is no upfront fee, if users don’t like the system they simply turn it off without any significant financial penalty. A recent user of Financial Driver made the comment “It’s basic, simple and does what it claims to do. We love it.” They were originally going to implement one of the mainstream systems for budgeting and reporting, but were worried about the cost and implementation times. With Financial Driver it took a few weeks and cost a fraction of what was being proposed by others. If you’re looking to implement a modern planning, forecasting or reporting system, take a look at the new generation of cloud applications. You’ll be surprised how little it costs to be a trailblazer.