Francois Lacas, Deputy COO at Yooz
The change in working conditions brought about by the pandemic has forced many companies to accelerate their technology strategies.
Cloud technology is rapidly becoming one of the key investments for future-proofed businesses, with 30% of businesses planning on moving to cloud systems and adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms as a top priority during the next year.
The benefits of cloud computing in finance - increased efficiency and flexibility, improved cash flow, and more - has long been the driving force behind adoption. But an additional advantage of the technology in reducing costs, ensuring server availability, and preventing unforeseen disasters is something businesses have become all too familiar with.
Alongside these black swan events have been the sudden changes in working environments, moving to more flexible/ remote practices, and more questions being raised about cybersecurity.
This is especially true for remote teams handling sensitive financial data. Securing data and sensitive financial information was a top priority for 36% of finance leaders over the next 12 months, according to a new survey.
To help businesses embrace the future and a new-look finance department, there are three technologies to prioritise:
1. Remote cybersecurity
Thanks to new technology, colleagues are working wherever they please, with the new office environment being anywhere from the kitchen table, city centre office, or at the beach.
But cyber issues are continuing following changes in working habits. Employees are logging in to their computers using less secure public networks - hotel Wi-Fi signals, logging in from the gym between work-outs, using their iPad in the park while walking the dog - which is increasing the risk of sensitive data.
The situation is creating an opportunity for cyber criminals to identify a chink in the armour - a weak password or an outdated software system - to hack into networks and steal vital business information.
So how can you ensure your IT infrastructure doesn’t come crumbling down?
Staff first need to be armed with the knowledge they need to protect your information. Basic cybersecurity training can go a long way here as many colleagues simply aren’t aware of the way cyber criminals gain access to systems. You can go as far as to operate a “live fire” exercise to show how easily you can fall victim to an attack.
Secondly, make encryption your friend. Particularly for employees working from home or a remote location, encryption can protect company files from unauthorised access and from theft. Accounting departments should therefore invest in an accounts payable solution that offers encryption services when the data is not in use.
Remember that cybersecurity is a team effort, and you need to put your employees in a position to succeed.
2. Cloud technology
Mobility is the top new trend in the working environment, so the priority right now for businesses is to minimise any future, unknown disruption by becoming as flexible as possible while ensuring finance teams can get access to data while on the move, and without being compromised.
Accountants can certainly expect to have their head in the clouds, with 30% of finance leaders saying cloud software/SaaS systems is one of the top areas of investment for the year ahead.
By using the cloud, accountants can provide their clients with a more nimble service, but it can also lead to greater flexibility for the accountants themselves.
By having access to their computing systems, client information and inventories from any internet-connected device, they can work more flexibly and in ways that suit them which, after 2020 became the year of ‘working from home’, is invaluable.
Automation in the finance department is quickly becoming the glue that holds processes and teams together, helping mitigate risk, decrease the time taken to alert stakeholders, and increase speed to resolution.
Automation in finance improves data accuracy by removing repetitive manual administration tasks from employee tasks. Finance system integration synchronises critical data between databases, reducing the risk of human error and making processes quicker and easier.
The range of automated solutions out there means core finance tasks, such as invoicing, book-keeping, expense management, can now be automated. This not only reduces the risk of delays and inaccuracies; it also frees your team to do much more useful stuff.
Automated traceability and cyber security are part of this rigorous process, making these solutions extremely effective in fighting fraud.
AP automation not only allows data to be captured and stored securely, but also easily shared through data visualization and ERP solutions to support remote working employees across the business and allow finance leaders to have access to real-time data.
The new-look accounting department
Without doubt, remote working is and will continue to be one of the biggest challenges and opportunities to day-to-day operations - one that has accelerated the shift towards digital technologies such as the Cloud and automation.
Businesses need to focus on embedding revised security measures right from the start so that their employees can keep operating securely, wherever they are in the world.
Now is the time to seize the opportunity to embrace new technology and a better way of working.