Financial Management Software as a Service

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1 White Paper Financial Management Software as a Service

2 Overview 3 Financial Management Software as a Service 5 What to Look for? 7 Conclusions and Summary 9 About Efima 10

3 Overview Technology continues to deliver tools that add significant efficiency and transparency to the way we work, and deliver even more as we learn to use them better. Today s CFOs are aware of the opportunities that follow the digitizing and automating of financial tasks and processes. The CFO s challenge, however, is to look at financial management from a holistic perspective. The bigger picture encompasses process efficiency, management reporting and integration between systems and the difficulty is in choosing between all the available solutions for different tasks. The requirements set by stakeholders on companies are also part of the picture. Requirements and legislation, and standards such as The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), share the same goal as technology: to increase efficiency and transparency. But the consequent requirements on tools in terms of configurations typically creates a bottleneck in the change process. An increasingly beneficial route through this potential confusion is the acquisition of the entity as a service. A well-planned Cloud Service solution can prove the most effective way of equipping a company with a ready-to-use financial system, with interfaces to different interest groups and related services. Working with an expert in financial management automation ensures not only the latest versions, but also provides for the long-term development of processes and best practices as part of the service all delivered with the lowest total cost of ownership. This paper examines the option of acquiring and using financial management systems as a service, and the particular benefits this could bring to the finance function. What kind of a service-based solution can replace the old license-based model? Are service-based systems better suited to tomorrow s networked finance function? Could today s CFOs build their finance architecture with a combination of delivery solutions internal, servicebased and outsourced to optimize the available resources and cost-level? What specific factors need to be taken into account? A set of tips for CFOs is included, listing considerations that are important in decision-making.

4 Buying Software as a Service Terminology Cloud computing The latest addition in the terminology jungle referring to service-based solutions versus license-based in-house applications. Typical cloud computing providers deliver common business applications online, accessed from a web browser, with the software and data stored on servers. Software as a Service or SaaS A term that can be interpreted in several ways. The most common is a software application that is developed and delivered by a provider as a service, which users can access on a pay-as-you-go basis without the need to deploy and maintain additional on-premise IT infrastructure or additional software. Source: THINKstrategies, Inc., 2009 Some people also refer to SaaS as a hosted service or an on-demand solution or even an Application Service Provider (ASP) offering (a term used at the end of the 1990s for application rental). However, SaaS is fundamentally different from previous hosting models in that it is designed to serve a dispersed user population through a web interface. Cloud Internet, network. Gartner defines cloud services as having five key characteristics: service orientation, payment based on usage, elasticity, internet technology and economies of scale bringing cost benefits (because the same resources are distributed to several clients). SaaS (Software as a Service) Application delivered from a cloud with no need to buy licenses or install software. PaaS (Platform as a Service) The operating system and related applications are provided as a cloud service over the web. HaaS (Hardware as a Service) IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) A virtual infrastructure where servers and software are delivered as a service over the web. Source: Microsoft In general, the key benefits of acquiring SaaS are: No upfront investment in the form of license fees. Payments are related to usage. Implementation project is typically shorter and cheaper. Usage and maintenance of the software is easy. Client always has the latest version of the application in use. Vendor is able to improve the software based on feedback, with new features and best practices rapidly made available to clients.

5 Financial Management Software as a Service What is available as a service? A variety of financial solutions are now available as a service, the most typical ones being purchase invoice workflow, e-invoicing, scanning solutions, travel claims management, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), document management, payroll and CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems. Most small companies opt to buy their finance management as a service, typically from a bookkeeping company. Larger companies are already used to acquiring CRM and payroll solutions as a service. But the offering is now being extended to include purchase invoice workflow automation (or parts of it, such as e-invoicing or scanning) and even a full ERP solution. The opportunity therefore exists to build a finance platform completely from a cloud; or a combination of in-house and rented solutions, even adding outsourcing to the architecture. From license-based to servicebased solutions There are several reasons why companies are replacing their systems or developing their system architecture: 1. Old license-based solution is no longer supported by the vendor the company risks slipping backwards in efficiency. 2. Decision made to reduce costs and focus on the company s own value creation. 3. Mergers and acquisitions. 4. License-based software does not integrate well with other business-critical solutions rebuilding the entire architecture using licensed software is cumbersome, timeconsuming and expensive. 5. Lack of sufficient IT resources in the company to support all applications the finance department is under pressure to offer high service levels, but cannot rely on IT support. 6. Technology is developing new features faster than the company can afford to upgrade its tools digitization is developing rapidly, with new features and enhancements delivered on a regular basis. 7. In an economic downturn, the company cannot afford to upgrade the software and risks becoming inefficient buying as a service with no upfront investments allows companies to stay efficient even in difficult times, and be best placed to take advantage of improved market conditions with world-class tools. 8. External requirements, legislation and regulations are demanding constant configuration of systems the finance function is heavily regulated and new requirements typically translate into software requirements. Examples include the Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA), changes in Value Added Tax rates, transparency requirements and so on. When such a turning point arises, a company may end up buying one of its many solutions as a cloud service, whilst others remain as in-house solutions. Depending on the industry, a company may even add process outsourcing into the architecture balancing and safeguarding resources even in the holiday season. A key requirement is that all systems talk to each other and that no double entries are needed. Experts in financial management cloud services and outsourcing are able to ensure that the solution is fully integrated and automation is employed to maximum effect. Benefit analysis There are many clear benefits both monetary and efficiency related in acquiring financial systems as a cloud service. Buying software as a cloud service can be seen as merely a delivery method. But there are strategic benefits in choosing this option, which supports finance in its goal of directing more time and resources to supporting the overall business. Running an in-house solution always requires a relatively deep understanding of the actual tool. Internal customers see the finance department as their helpdesk. Buying software from a cloud frees finance from this task. From a psychological perspective, it helps personnel to see tools as tools, and not relate them to a certain department again allowing the finance function develop its core expertise within the company. Added to which, most CFOs do not see operational process work as a core area within the company, and so are willing to allow external partners to manage the related tools.

6 Key benefits of a cloud service: 1. Cloud service is usually very fast and easy to implement. Browser-based usage enables personnel adopt the software without a time-consuming, technical installation project. 2. The initial investment is obviously low compared to buying licenses. 3. Running costs are variable (based on volume used), and therefore transparent and related to the business volume particularly helpful in economic downturns. 4. If the cloud service is based on global technology and solutions, processes can be made truly global and the benefits across global businesses are considerable. 5. In economic upturns when the business grows rapidly, a service-based system easily scales and supports growth and an increasing number of users. 6. As the vendor improves the system and equips clients with the latest versions, clients benefit from the latest available technology. One example could be the use of smartphone GPS to register mileage when traveling, with the data loaded directly into the travel management system for automatic claims. Another example is to build the user experience of the solution around the user s role in the organization. 7. Innovation becomes part of the relationship and best practices are developed that can be incorporated into the processes. In fact, in a successful SaaS relationship, the client actually gets Best Practice as a Service! 8. There is no client responsibility for system maintenance and all IT-related tasks are handled by the vendor. For clients, this is a tool that actively supports their business. 9. Using the software remotely through a browser is a major benefit for users who travel a lot. It allows them to review and approve invoices and travel claims in transit. 10. Service based solutions represent the latest technology and service-based architecture (SOA). Forerunner systems have the key processes built in, minimizing the need for integration into external solutions. Data security is built into a service-based software system, because it will (by definition) be connected with the outside world. Standard integration interfaces enable easy linkage where necessary. 11. System configuration related to legal and regulatory requirements is part of the package and taken care of by the vendor. Examples include SEPA, VAT changes and e-invoicing standards.

7 What to Look for Tips for CFOs when acquiring a finance system as a cloud service Having established the soundness of the SaaS solution in finance management and its advantages over buying licenses or upgrading existing systems what should a CFO be looking for when investigating such a solution? As is so often the case, the starting point is common sense. The system and the architecture should serve a purpose and support the corporate strategy. Priorities clearly depend on a variety of factors: industry, competitive situation, growth plans, resource availability and internationalization, to name but a few. It makes sense to conduct a thorough company analysis, and map it onto the company goals, before making a choice. Such an analysis would set the framework for the entire finance architecture. This analysis may, for instance, reveal that some parts of the architecture are best left in-house. It will also show what can and should be expected of the system(s) acquired as a service, and how they should support the business. It may even highlight parts of the process that can be outsourced. In today s networked economy, visualizing the targeted situation in financial management is best practice. Historically, it was apparent that the finance function was an in-house operation, and the cost of it was therefore fixed. Today, however, the possibility exists to share work within networks, and to build a flexible solution that supports the company s business more efficiently. But choosing this route needs to be the result of clear goal-setting and situational analysis to make sense.

8 Figure 1. Viewpoints in analyzing the requirements of the finance function set-up The CFO checklist We recommend looking out for the following key factors when investigating acquiring a finance system as a cloud service: Purposeful finance Based on the analysis, decide which business areas will benefit most from SaaS. Typically, the quick wins can be found in purchase invoice workflow and travel management processes. Longer-term benefits can be achieved when the system covers as large a share of the processes and functional requirements as reasonably possible. Efficient finance Process automation obviously improves efficiency. Even greater efficiency can be a realistic prospect with cloud services, even if the processes have already been automated with an in-house solution. The key is right-sizing cloud service solutions are charged based on volume, so there is no wasteful, extra capacity to pay for. The right SaaS partner can also help in building the process to deliver maximum efficiency by, for example, recommending where purchase invoice posting should take place in the invoice workflow or how to best conduct group consolidation. Agile finance As mentioned earlier, flexibility is more important than ever in today s fluctuating business environments. Being able to resize finance operations without delays to reflect changing circumstances is vital in maintaining transparency and efficiency. For example, historically a merger resulted in years of inefficiency in internal operations due to the inability to merge different IT systems. Utilizing a service-based solution solves this immediately and without extra costs. It is important that such agility is built into the service that the cloud vendor is offering. Transparent finance The best SaaS solutions ensure that data is transparent both across internal usage and as a basis for reporting. Business users appreciate being able to dig deeper into their cost-center s invoices, for example, without having to turn to the finance department. As cloud-based solutions run over the internet, this is obviously possible through the web interfaces. Finance personnel and other stakeholders appreciate the robust and transparent audit trail. Other factors to look out for: Demand market-leading applications and technologies when acquiring the cloud service. Make sure you work with a vendor that has substance-matter expertise in the actual processes (in this case, finance), not just IT knowledge. This will guarantee that the applications will stay world-class and improve throughout the vendor-client relationship. Best practices are built into the system to further improve the processes, and you will benefit from it from day one. Look for real experience in cloud services. Since the old Application Service Provider (ASP) terminology changed to the more lucrative SaaS or cloud, there seem to be SaaS providers popping up everywhere. Check out the experience and references of the company and its key resources in service-based deliveries! Make sure the vendor is able to fulfill local legal requirements. These include document archiving, VAT rules, multi-currency management and payment formats (for example, cheques are still being used in some countries). To get the most out of the system, it may make sense to have local language versions for different territory users. Identify requirements specific to your business. The system should be configurable to meet your particular requirements and processes. Again, the process expertise of the vendor is crucial. They should be able to recommend the optimum solution for you based on their wide experience of different client requirements. Often, the best solution may be the standard one. Demand full integration. The objective should be maximum transparency and the elimination of any double entries. An expert vendor will be able to offer the right solution for your business. You will need several interfaces to external stakeholders, such as e-invoicing operators, scanning partners, banks and other service providers. Build a business case. Compare the license model with the cloud service offering, including all the related costs like vendor management, investment funding, internal IT costs, upgrades and compulsory system development (due, for instance, to legal requirements). Look beyond finance! The finance function exists to reflect the actual business and support future development. Bear this in mind when you build the financial management architecture.

9 Conclusions and Summary Service-based solutions or cloud services for financial processes have matured significantly in recent years. The SaaS approach is now firmly established as a viable option that should be considered. However, common sense and achieving a fit-for-purpose solution must remain the guiding principles. There are several situations where acquiring a service-based solution makes sense, but a situation analysis is the fundamental starting point for reaching the right decision. If the analysis shows that cloud services make sense, it is important to look for a professional partner with real experience in providing SaaS, combined with substance matter knowledge on finance and processes. With the right partner in place, you can look forward to finance management that is purposeful, efficient, agile and transparent.

10 About Efima We believe in: Efima improves the financial management of large and midsized companies with world-class solutions and services. With solid experience in digital processes, Efima builds fit-for-purpose financial management for our clients, based on their business goals. Efima s services include cloud applications, outsourcing and consulting. Purposefulness in financial management, built to support each of your key business goals. Efficiency based on automation, competence, measurements and economies of scale. Agility and flexibility to manage all the internal and external changes that can impact your business. Transparency that breeds both function efficiency and business integrity. Efima is committed to building efficient, purposeful and transparent financial management for our clients financial management that contributes to your success. We carefully study each client s current situation, future prospects, strategy and objectives. Then we design the unique solution that enables top tier management to make the right decisions at the right time. We are passionate in our delivery of superlative client service. We listen, analyse, solve, implement and follow up. Our team s solid experience and commitment ensure excellent and immediate results, as well as providing a basis for continuous learning and the refinement of best practices. We do this to support your competitiveness and to optimise the support your finance team delivers for your business.

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