Organisations are increasingly realising the transformative potential of the cloud to enhance budgeting and planning to drive better business results. Although finance is often one of the last departments in the enterprise to go cloud, the shift is on, according to Gartner, which disclosed that it is no longer covering non-cloud solutions in its latest report. And CFOs agree; according to Adaptive Insights CFO Indicator Q1 2017 report, finance leaders expect technologies to increasingly reside in the cloud. Indeed, CFOs estimate that 33 percent of their IT infrastructure is Software-as-Service (SaaS) today, and they forecast this to grow to 60 percent of their infrastructure in four years.
With a few exceptions, the key question facing CFOs and Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) leaders is fast becoming not if you are moving to the cloud, but when you are doing it. Yet committing to a cloud transition is only the first step. It is essential to take key actions to help ensure a smooth transition and position finances teams and the broader organisation to reap the full benefits that a cloud solution can offer. Here are three phases to a successful cloud migration for FP&A:
- Assess the current state of the organisation
The legwork companies do leading up to the migration to the cloud can go a long way toward ensuring a smoother, more productive future in the cloud. The key to the pre-migration assessment is to identify the systems, technology, and processes currently being used to manage and analyse financial and operations data in the organisation. It is also important to get a clear snapshot of the data itself. Where is the data being housed? Is it siloed? Is there general agreement on what is the core data for the organisation? This assessment will help create a benchmark from which to measure the organisation’s progress, while also ensuring the cloud system deployed has the functionality, capacity and capabilities to deliver the most value.
It will also provide reassurance to executive sponsors and the leadership team that the necessary research has been done and the potential benefits clearly identified. The assessment also helps identify processes or technology that are currently delivering value and might have a place in the post-cloud environment.
- Educate and inform
Those already well-versed in cloud know its many benefits. For FP&A, the cloud frees teams from the drudgery of static planning and enables them to move to an active planning process. However, even the best technology and most seamless deployment cannot be successful if you do not get buy-in from everyone from the executives to the admins. It is only human nature for people to focus on “what’s in it for me” when faced with change. To be successful, organisations need more than just a cloud transition strategy for the technical and logistical aspects of moving from an Excel environment or a legacy system to the cloud. They also need a cloud migration strategy to effectively communicate the benefits, as well as provide adequate training to get partners from throughout the organisation understanding and leveraging the cloud technology. Ultimately, moving to the cloud should be positioned as not just an FP&A project, but rather, an advancement that offers benefits to the whole organisation through more efficiency, better collaboration and stronger business results.
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- Do not declare victory early
If companies accurately assess their current state and effectively communicate the benefits of the cloud, they should move through the first phase of the transition with real momentum. From there, the key is to sustain it. It is important to continue to promote the benefits of the cloud as an opportunity to adopt active planning that can enhance efficiency and create a competitive edge. Additionally, they can leverage forecasting and modelling capabilities that offer value to business partners by providing insight on everything from managing headcount to more effectively tracking sales and inventory.
By managing the transition in this way, companies continuously build on the foundational benefits seen from the transition to the cloud. This will build an army of advocates, while also positioning FP&A as collaborative strategic partners, as opposed to order takers and number crunchers. By making it clear from the start that a full cloud transition takes time and is most successful when executed in a phased approach, companies will buy themselves time to ensure that the migration is successful and offers the best opportunity for strong ROI.
Ultimately, by taking a well-planned, strategic approach, organisations can dramatically improve the chances that their transition to the cloud goes smoothly, is well received and delivers maximum value to the business.