2016 Pulls Accounting Into Real-Time Data Race

Jan 29th 2016
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As with the start of any new year, accountants are resolving to maximize resources to help their clients stay competitive and improve market standing. Key to achieving superior performance is on-demand access to data.

Real-time access to data can provide accounting professionals with meaningful insights, such as how employees are using corporate dollars and where dollars can become more efficient. For this reason, the accounting profession is increasingly looking to the cloud and interconnected cloud-based systems, which provide the infrastructure needed for real-time data.

More than 75 percent of organizations in 2015, according to North Bridge Growth Equity and Venture Partners, said they rely on a cloud-based platform within their organization, a 9 percent increase from 2014. Other departments, such as sales and marketing, have already been using cloud-based software to provide real-time data for on-demand reporting and decision-making, setting new expectations within the business. Accountants must now follow suit in order to keep pace with the new speed of business.

This movement to cloud-based accounting is a much-welcomed change from traditional approaches, where finance teams were forced to work late nights maneuvering data in Excel. While the market may have started to transition to cloud-based accounting, they now face the expectation of real-time data from executives, which will become more and more common for finance teams through 2016. The path to cloud-based accounting will now be seen in two key functions.

Answering the Demand for Real-Time Data

With cloud-based platform implementations on the rise, the pressure will be high for finance teams to deliver real-time data, as business executives will demand the most up-to-date analysis to make the best-informed decisions for the organization.

A major consideration of selecting a cloud-based software system is the ability to sync data between platforms, giving teams access to the most up-to-date data and insight into where the business' money is being spent. Being able to continuously sync data between systems gives finance teams access to business spend data as it happens so they can flag inconsistencies in the moment, readjusting budgets and setting forecasting strategies as appropriate. The process of storing data will also become more automated, allowing finance teams to spend less time on data entry and focusing their time on more strategic functions.

Customizable ERP Systems

As more processes move to the cloud, there is an opportunity for a new type of enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. To unlock more business intelligence than ever before, organizations will start to transition from a traditional ERP system to a “pick-and-choose” model. Two major benefits will emerge from this new model:

  1. The ability to create a customized solution that best fits the needs of a business.
  2. A reduction in costs by only paying for what is needed.

In the past, ERP systems were the obvious choice for organizations that wanted insights from their data. These systems' value proposition was that all services were on one platform and were continuously in sync. However, the traditional model did not mean that each individual service was the best fit for the particular organization and did not offer the organization the ability to only select the solutions that fit their needs.

Now, cloud-based vendors are focusing on providing one highly niche solution with features that closely align with a business unit or industry need, then using APIs to connect and pass data to other cloud-based systems. For example, a recruiting platform will open its API to integrate with other platforms that specialize in a completely different, yet slightly related, task like payroll or expense management. Your clients will extract more value from this model by integrating their systems with preferred vendors that best fit their organization's needs, while controlling their budget by only paying for what they need.

This “pick-and-choose” model will allow organizations to create their own, fully customized ERP solution. Cloud-based accounting systems would be wise to follow in the footsteps of companies like Salesforce that were able to increase the value of their own software by integrating with a multitude of vendors, even ones offering similar services. By placing the power to choose in the hands of their customers and offering an ecosystem to build and customize their service, Salesforce became ingrained in the way a company did business.

With the new model of ERP and cloud accounting systems that ensure more customized service delivery and real-time insights from upgraded cloud-based platforms that unburden accounting teams and provide unparalleled business intelligence, organizations will be on their way to meeting and exceeding their 2016 resolutions.

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