The recent shift to remote working has caused a range of technical issues for many businesses. One issue causing particular exasperation is the way accounting systems often struggle under the pressure of multiple users accessing them remotely.
Generally, accounting systems are designed to cope with a finite amount of data and basic transactions. This has meant that many of these systems have begun to slow and become difficult to access as they attempt to deal with unprecedented levels of traffic coming into them from remote sources.
To maintain financial health, businesses need to react and adapt to new technologies quickly and effectively if they want to succeed in the ‘new normal’ corporate environment. A fact especially true for expanding companies on the verge of outgrowing their current accounting system.
Accounting system providers at the forefront of industry innovation are constantly investing in new processes and technology, and in none more so than cloud computing. A modern and sophisticated cloud accounting system can help businesses work smarter, faster, and in a more integrated way, regardless of how many of the workforce are operating remotely. Finding the suppliers of such systems though can be an arduous task.
In this piece, we discuss the tell-tale signs that a business is partnered with a supplier that is behind the digital curve; clinging onto legacy technology and dated business models. We will also look at the benefits of cloud accounting to support new ways of working and what businesses should consider when seeking a new supplier.
Spotting the symptoms of a failing accounting system
For the majority of businesses experiencing friction with their accounting systems, the phenomenon has been relatively recent. In the early months and years of trading, the starter software they had invested in performed sufficiently well, required as it was to only manage relatively simple accounts and provide day to day information.
However, for those businesses whose revenues, client bases, and workforces all grew, so did the pressure on their entry-level systems. As with the human body, with growth came pain. These pains include but are not limited to:
Data corruption: A common consequence of an overloaded, legacy system that was never designed to be scalable. Occasionally, suppliers can help retrieve data but, where it must be done on a regular basis, it is both expensive and inconvenient.
Unreliable data extraction: Unable to access the required information, businesses are forced to purchase additional, third-party software or use time-consuming alternatives. Excel is a common tool for removing data from the main system so it can be worked on in isolation before being returned but often leads to multiple errors, along with security risks.
Poor performance: As legacy systems struggle to process heavy traffic of large files; overall performance begins to suffer. The only solution is to extract data that, as noted above, comes with its own raft of problems.
Overspending: With key staff unable to access the latest budgets, overspending becomes commonplace. Moreover, as potential investors cannot readily acquire a transparent view of the accounts due to inadequate drill-down capabilities, a subsequent lack of trust in the accounting system may lead them to walk away.
Businesses simply need more from their accounting systems
Businesses experiencing any of the symptoms outlined above should take comfort from the fact that each is a signal of a well-performing business. But, to further enhance growth, businesses mustn’t just look to eliminate these pains, rather they must look for solutions that bestow greater capability.
Ultimately, businesses must appreciate that if they’re not working at maximum efficiency, many of their competitors will be. They also need to understand the risk that a supplier failing to evolve with market forces are often themselves phased out of the market, leaving their customers with no supplier and an inventory of outdated kit.
Assessing the proficiency and reliability of accounting systems can be achieved by looking at their suite of features and methods of working. For example, today, changes to data can be instantly updated in real-time from any location and across all systems through the formidable power of transactional interoperability. Suppliers unwilling to offer this service hinder their clients’ progress and should serve as an early warning.
The sheer flexibility of modern systems also means that data can be shared freely across all other business systems. With integrated IT systems, businesses can free up finance personnel from mundane and manual tasks so they can concentrate on strategic, commercial objectives.
Other tell-tale signs include a need to rely on one person in the finance department to sign off every process. Modern technology can clear the logjams that result from this by giving certain staff tailored access to the finance system. Through these devolved technologies it is possible to transform processes across the business, increasing speed, reducing workloads on the core finance team, and allowing senior managers to access their own figures to make instant, informed decisions, without having to grant them access to areas you don’t want them in.
Then there’s the fact that required information can be accessed from anywhere. Businesses moving their financial systems to the cloud gain easy access to crucial data from any location via a web browser, accelerating decision making and processes across the board. Budget holders are suddenly able to approve orders from their smartphones and sales teams can update their expenses and revenues via tablets. The result is teams that work faster and more efficiently from financial data that is always current, which is particularly important in the ever-evolving flexible working landscape.
Choosing the right cloud system for your business
In what is becoming an increasingly crowded market, choosing the right cloud supplier to support your accounting system can feel a little overwhelming. Nevertheless, there are certain features you can look for in a partner to help you arrive at an informed decision.
For starters, ask any potential supplier about their current clients. How many are using the cloud and why? When did their first cloud customer go live? When did they migrate from on-premise? What business benefits are they now enjoying? The answers to these questions will provide a rounded picture of why the supplier created their solution, and what their journey with the cloud has been like.
From here, uptime becomes critical. If a supplier has been providing cloud for a while they should be able to immediately communicate their uptime stats and monitoring processes. It’s also worth looking into their policy on updates, how often they’re installed and what kind of impact they might have on your business processes.
Of course, underpinning any cloud supplier’s proposition is the technology behind it so it’s vital to check you’re getting access to the industry’s best. Reliability, scalability, security, and user-friendliness are all critical components of any cloud offering and you need to know the details for each.
The best technology in the world is useless though if it’s stored in a wooden hut so find out where your cloud will be housed and assess its physical security. The likes of bomb-proof data facilities are becoming standard, so if a supplier can only offer something less robust, it’s worth considering whether you’d feel confident with them hosting your financial data.
Technology is moving with the times, are you?
Today, accounting is completed remotely in a way not witnessed in human history. This is not something to be afraid of. Indeed, for the flexibility it affords, it should be embraced.
However, remote accounting can only ever be as efficient as the technology that powers it. Bolstered by solutions that are accessed across the latest cloud computing software, the practice will only continue to get faster, more versatile, and more productive. It will also increasingly expose late adopters and, for some, the exposure could be harsh enough that it leads to failure.