Over the past few years the decision to deploy applications in the cloud has been mainly one of IT strategy: is it more cost effective and/or efficient to opt for a cloud-based deployment model rather than on premise? This ‘application-hosting’ evaluative approach has led a majority of UK businesses to set up at least one application in the cloud – a deployment model where businesses swap like-for-like applications and functionality, migrating from on premise to external hosted deployment, made available via browser.
Historically, cloud migration from a business-use perspective changed little; a new web-front end simply covered the old on-site application with little, if any, difference in functionality or efficiency. In many respects, this narrow IT cost-comparative approach represented an early ‘Cloud 1.0’ era.
In what could be described as the more mature and dynamic cloud environment of today, focusing solely on the deployment model alone can ignore the significant additional benefits that can follow from the adoption of a truly effective purpose-built cloud solution.
More robust business applications
Cloud deployment can, and should, offer a range of measurable benefits to businesses, going well beyond the traditional discussions around pricing models and IT outsourcing. For a business considering any transition to cloud-based finance applications, usability and staff productivity benefits are as important as static IT cost models comparisons.
As mobile and wearable devices become a standard way to make purchases, expectations of customers and employees alike can stretch existing operational systems that often originate from a pre-mobile era. In simply relocating existing functionality to the cloud, businesses can miss opportunities to dramatically enhance operational functionality and efficiency.
Organisations should exploit web-based delivery to provide services that offer additional value - integrating previously siloed processes, providing powerful consolidated views of business activity and as a result, enhancing staff productivity and performance. For example, the ability to create in real time a dashboard that highlights all payments made to a certain supplier, or dynamically build a performance graph is a reasonable expectation of users’ today.
Cloud solutions also enable users to initiate and monitor all payments from a single browser-based platform, often with mobile integration to provide anytime, anywhere control. This improved visibility can deliver dramatic cash management and liquidity benefits for organisations.
The 40% power boost
Today’s ‘digitally native’ employees are often increasingly frustrated by a working environment that is constrained by applications that bear no relation to the intuitive experience delivered in the consumer marketplace. Application simplicity and usability has a direct connection to overall staff productivity and business performance - in both service levels and profitability.
For a business considering any technology change, application usability and staff productivity are equally important as the IT cost model when it comes to considering the role of cloud-based finance applications. Employee time should not be needlessly dominated by cumbersome application interfaces, complex navigation and system incompatibilities. One recent study estimates UK employees can waste over three hours a day working with inefficient systems - that could equate to 40% of your monthly employee bill. Would your organisation benefit from more profitably deploying 40% of its staff at no extra cost? An effective cloud deployment solution should provide the efficient and intuitive experience that is considered the norm in the consumer marketplace.
The flexibility of cloud solutions designed from the ground up to exploit web and mobile innovations also enables organisations to move away from imposed workflows that do not reflect today’s working environment or efficiency ideal. This model should be highly flexible, enabling organisations to embrace far more effective working practices – from mobile approvals to full lights out processing – that deliver measurable improvements in productivity and cost reduction.
Utilising ‘consumer-quality’ business applications ensures staff can intuitively work out how to make a payment or request approvals. As a result, new starters or individuals undertaking holiday cover can embrace a business application without requiring extensive, and expensive, systems training. Combined with flexible remote access facilities, a modern cloud migration can deliver a business efficient platform that truly works for your organisation and a tangible speed boost to your business.
Security, security, security
Some priorities however do not change. Disruptive technology advancements and new market entrants make for a complex and diverse market in cloud services – often introducing new security or longevity concerns for businesses. Whatever the innovation and promise, safe, secure and dependable payment processes of course remain a fixed constant. In today’s cloud marketplace, consideration of the risk landscape should go beyond standardised technical and security resilience assessments to encompass full vendor-chain due-diligence and stability.
This will extend along the technical architecture from the software provider to the company hosting the cloud solution. What are the pedigrees of any prospective cloud business partners? An assessment will take account of long term financing and staffing commitments together with an evaluation of how well they understand the fast evolving payments landscape.
Likewise, in a fluid business environment it is essential to accurately assess the scalability of any cloud-based solution. Flexibility is one of the key benefits of the cloud model - a modular design that allows an organisation to scale up and down its usage to reflect operational and business requirements. This scalability and flexibility can encompass services portfolios, transaction volumes and operational geographies.
Recalibrating the cloud
Understanding that software in the cloud is no longer a solely narrow conventional deployment model consideration around ‘Capex’ and ‘Opex’ pricing models should be a core understanding for organisations considering technology change today. Powerful and impactful Cloud solutions can exploit web-based delivery to deliver additional value - integrating previously siloed processes, providing consolidated functionality and oversight, and as a result significantly enhancing staff productivity and performance.
For those organisations beginning to assess whether the time to put their payments in the cloud is now, there are a number of broad elements to assess in order to identify the optimal deployment model:
- Is the cloud solution simply relocating an existing application?
- Is the interface easy to understand and use? Does it allow for customisation to simplify the business tasks relevant for your organisation?
- Does the cloud solution enable the integration of currently siloed systems and processes?
- What additional value-added benefits could your organisation expect to make with an effective cloud deployment?
- Does the cloud service enable secure mobile access for your staff?
- What is the pedigree of the cloud provider? Do they have proven solution expertise?
- Does the cloud solution offer the chance to reduce costs through consolidation? For example, replacing existing diverse solutions used by HR and Accounts Payable or across departments, business units and geographies?
- With common productivity increases in excess of 40%, does your organisation have a plan to better deploy staff resources following cloud implementation?
Cloud payments is clearly a viable and proven alternative to on premise software, offering significant benefits above and beyond simply reducing the total cost of ownership through hosted deployment.
The decision is all about making the right choice for your business. Whatever your preference; payment security, simplicity, scalability and speed should be at the core of your decision.
By Richard Ransom, Payments Product Marketing Manager EMEA, Bottomline Technologies.