What does cloud technology mean for businesses today? How you answer that question depends very much on your perspective – and your position within your organization affects that perspective.
Chief finance officers (CFOs) might think about the cloud differently than the IT administrators implementing it, or marketers that are using software to engage with their customers in new ways. CFOs as a rule need to be concerned with regulatory compliance, protecting a firm’s proprietary data and intellectual property, and running their department as efficiently as possible.
At the Global Finance Conference in Toronto, three CFOs from major tech brands gave their take on cloud computing in a panel discussion. Here’s what they had to say.
Emma Da Silva, CFO, Microsoft Canada
For Da Silva, the cloud is about how people are connecting with and delivering digital experiences.
“The funny thing about describing it as a trend is that everyone thinks that it is something that is coming, but it’s already here,” she says. Having previously launched Microsoft’s cloud offerings as the head of Microsoft’s Office division in Canada, Da Silva feels it’s actually pretty entrenched already. After all, 70 per cent of the Fortune 500 companies in Canada are using cloud technology today, she says.
Regardless of your company’s size, turning on cloud services has never been easier, Da Silva says. In many scenarios there’s ample opportunity to try a service before you commit to buying it and rolling it out across a company.
For CFOs considering the cloud or looking to make the case for switching to it based on a company’s bottom line, Da Silva has a couple pointers.
“The first thing you can do is try and understand the cost of your assets today, then when you look at these cloud technologies, you’ll be able to make a more rational decision about whether it’s right for your company,” she says. “Once you’re in, is it a one-way street and going back is very difficult? What your business needs will change so flexibility is very important.”
The world is changing, Da Silva says, and those that use cloud technology will have a sustainable competitive advantage as a result.
Angelo Valentini, CFO, Cisco Canada
Thinking back to the time before cloud technology at Cisco is a painful experience for Valentini. It was full of manual processes, and slow.
“We weren’t able to scale at the speed of business,” he says. “We used cloud technology to change the game. We used it to enable operational efficiency.”
Cisco relies on its own private cloud to connect its employees with applications they use on a day-to-day basis. For example, Valentini uses the My Approvals portal to put his digital John Hancock on POs, invoices, and work order right on his smartphone.
“Everything I need to do to run my business, I can do right here,” he says.
Other businesses considering the cloud should realize that employees might choose to use a cloud service to do their job without going through official company channels. Suddenly a monthly recurring charge is showing up on a credit card, a work load is moved into the cloud and the CFO doesn’t even know about it.
Consider the business outcome you want to achieve with cloud technology and figure out how it will help address it, Valentini adds. Examine the security policies of that provider and make sure any implementation is done with executive leadership support.
Roger Daoud, CFO, SAP Canada
SAP has moved all the software it offers to cloud-based offerings (while also still supporting on-premises deployments where required). So not only is Daoud the CFO of SAP Canada, he’s also a user – running on the Simple Finance product that SAP launched in June.
Using the company’s in-memory database technology HANA, the finance department can run in real-time instead of a historical model. As a result, closing the books at the end of the financial year takes only a few days.
“Something that took three or four hours to run before now takes three or four seconds,” he says.
Businesses considering the cloud can benefit from shifting capital expenses for technology capability to operating expenses that are subscription-based instead, Daoud says. That capital can be invested elsewhere in the company.