Posted by Reginald Singh, VP for Asia, NetSuite

The role of the CFO has traditionally been a “head down, monitor the numbers” sort of role. I remember all too well in my early finance career being seen as a function that primarily existed to run reports and prepare PowerPoint presentations!

But, just as it has transformed so many jobs and industries, the cloud is transforming the role of the CFO, both what’s expected and what’s possible. I speak from experience. At Knowledge Universe a multinational private educational organisation, the migration of our financial operations to the cloud transformed our function, doing away with laborious time-consuming manual processes while putting real-time access to financial information at the fingertips of the business. This freed up time for our analysts to spend on real business partnering, driving strategy and advising the business.

It’s an issue many CFOs are grappling with right now. Where once CFOs were perhaps reluctant to move their financial systems to the cloud over concerns about security, stability and data ownership, the tens of thousands of companies that are successfully running their business on cloud-based systems seem to have disproven those concerns as a true risk. Indeed, the cost certainty and economies of scale of cloud-based systems are strong positives for any CFO.

But the cloud’s importance to the role of the CFO is about more than just dollars and cents. It’s central to their day-to-day roles. Particularly, it can drive productivity gains. CFOs using cloud-based financial software with real-time unified data can spend more time adding value to the organisation vs. closing books and assembling report, or worse, building forecasts off of data entered manually in spreadsheets.

Cloud gives CFOs a seat at the table, or at least a voice, they might not otherwise have had. CFOs want to be a trusted advisor to the business, offering ideas for revenue growth instead of constantly looking to cut costs or report on what happened last quarter. And they should. No one in the organisation has more important data at their fingertips than the CFO. Unified, real-time data also means the CFO can be more responsive to changes in the business or the market.

For me it meant a finance organisation that was progressive, forward looking and a trusted advisor to the business. For the team, it meant richer more impactful roles that provided real learning and development opportunities vs. building spreadsheet skiils!

In China in particular, the labor crunch has forced businesses to find ways to gain efficiencies and be more productive. The cloud offers a perfect opportunity for this. And while, early cloud initiatives in the region tend to focus on things like infrastructure and storage, a true, multitenant cloud solution offers even greater rewards to CFOs. For instance, changes to taxes and regulations can be added to the system and pushed out to all customers at once. In Malaysia, NetSuite customers went to bed one night recently and woke up with their tax reporting SuiteApps compliant with the new Goods and Services Tax (GST) that went into effect April 1. Upgrades with cloud systems are regular and don’t create the pain and business upheaval that on-premise upgrades entail.

Cloud-based systems also allow companies to easily expand, both domestically and internationally, with flexible deployments that don’t require onsite data centres and software installations, just a web browser and an Internet connection. On-premise systems bring with them a large cost risk for new divisions or businesses.
Moreover, the cloud can make a difference in employee retention. Millennials entering the workforce want to work with the latest technology. That means cloud systems.

The pace of adoption of cloud is rapidly expanding across the region already. A survey from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan found that in Singapore 62 percent of businesses are using Software as a Service (SaaS) for at least one business application and 63 percent of businesses running SaaS believe it has helped them react to disruption more effectively.

I’ll be speaking more on the topic of the importance of cloud to the CFO in a panel at the CFO Innovation Forum on 22 April in Shanghai. I hope you can join me there.

In the meantime, learn more about what NetSuite can offer the CFO.