Congratulations on selecting a next generation cloud based finance application. While there are many great reasons to convert to the cloud, like any system implementation, organizations need more than just developers and systems integrators to make their implementation a success. Here are five keys to help you realize the full potential from your new application.
Employ A Solution Architect
The solution architect plays a key role in any implementation. With an understanding of your business, long-term goals, and application functionality, the architect acts as the bridge between the implementation team and the business. As such, the architect looks closely at processes and organizational structure to develop technology and process based solutions that meet your future needs. Working hand in hand with both the business and implementation teams, they are able to suggest ways to streamline processes, eliminate non-value added tasks, and ensure the organization is deploying a “right person – right job”approach.
Architects also play a key role post-implementation, acting as the first line of support for your users. They are uniquely positioned to understand and prioritize issues as they arise and recommend both short term workarounds and long term solutions. Additionally, the architect is integral in reviewing application updates which are typically released by cloud vendors up to four times a year. The architect can analyze the releases and provide recommendations on new features to implement. With their deep understanding across both process and technology, the architect will be instrumental as your business grows. Whether your organization is supporting an acquisition, expanding internationally or launching a new product line, the architect will have the expertise needed to offer valuable insights.
Design Preventive & Detective Controls Into Your Implementation
A common mistake that companies make when implementing cloud based solutions is not considering controls as part of the implementation. Your architect and system integrators will be looking at every key finance process during the implementation, making it a perfect time to design controls into your application. As such, every implementation team should have an expert in controls. As each key process is modeled, the expert will look at the process and recommend security changes, detective controls (reports and alerts) and periodic audit processes to be implemented. After design and development of these controls, they should be tested just like any other part of the system. By designing controls “up-front”, companies can avoid costly post-implementation audits and remediation projects.
Have Accountants Configure Your Ledger & Financial Reports
System integrators are experts on system configuration, data conversion, and building interfaces but often lack the deep accounting expertise required to help you design your accounting system and the reports that are needed. It is critical to train your accountants on the basics of the system and financial report writing early in the project. The accountant should be an integral part of the implementation team and should ask the tough accounting questions up front. As part of the team, the accountant will be able to more quickly identify system issues by analyzing reports and identifying accounting entries that appear odd or inaccurate. They will also understand and design the system to handle advanced accounting concepts around consolidation, revenue recognition, amortization, multibook reporting, and currency translation. System integrators are experts on the application but rarely have the accounting expertise required to validate the results of the application.
Take Advantage of Upgrades
Cloud providers typically release two to four application releases per year. These applications are packed with new functionality and features that you can choose to deploy. As part of the implementation, be sure to catalog all available functionality, including the features you are using and the features that are dormant. For each subsequent upgrade, add the new features to the list and implement functionality that your team can use immediately. On a periodic basis (e.g. quarterly, annually) form a working committee to review the unused or dormant functionality. Many companies fall into a trap of allowing their application to lie dormant while their business is constantly changing. Functionality that was deemed not applicable during implementation may now solve a pressing challenge for your company two years down the road.
Don’t Forget About Change Management
Although many cloud applications are built to create an experience similar to our everyday consumer web experience (e.g. Amazon and Google), your upgrade will rely on a successful change management strategy. Change management includes assessing who will be impacted by the change, developing adoption strategies for each user group, executing those strategies and evaluating adoption post implementation. Change management relies heavily on communication and training. It is important that key stakeholders impacted by the project are identified early and communication strategies are deployed often. At the beginning of the project, communication should focus on awareness of the upcoming change. As the project progresses, communication should focus more on the actions that the stakeholder needs to take, along with training the user on the new application (and your new business process!). Derek Bok, the former president of Harvard, famously said “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Companies that implement a successful change management strategy are far more likely to get the most out of their new finance application.