Most businesses are by now already at one or another stage of the enterprise cloud transformation journey and a staggering 93% of business executives who participated in Deloitte’s 2018 global outsourcing survey, confirmed that their organisations were adopting - or at least considering adopting - cloud.
Deloitte South Africa Finance and Enterprise Performance Management Leader Phillip Hechter says that, “Cloud is not just here, but here to stay. With the potential for significant cost savings and enhanced strategic value, cloud represents a fundamental shift in how technology solutions are developed and in how they are delivered”.
However, a migration to cloud is not without its challenges and the bigger the organisation’s ambitions, the bigger those challenges.
In the latest iteration of its ‘Crunch time’ series, ‘Crunch Time 8: The CFO Guide to Cloud,’ Deloitte highlights the need for the CFO to take an active role in navigating the challenges that emerge during this process; as well as in making strategic decisions that leverage the technology’s full potential.
The lowered costs on offer with cloud, are one of its biggest drawcards. Broadly speaking, the operational costs are less expensive than those associated with on-site technology and there exists the prospect for massive returns on a cloud investment when what might be ‘unfamiliar’ cost categories - like operating model optimisation, speed-to-market and innovation – are taken into account, alongside more traditional ones.
New core finance platforms
“Cloud solutions should be the default starting point for new core finance platforms and some major Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) providers only offer cloud-native options now. The rest are at the very least, punting cloud-optimised versions of their software. Certain components may need to remain on-site for now and ERP providers will most probably continue to support on-site technology for at least the next decade; but it is unlikely that this will continue in the long run and the industry is now focusing its investments in innovation, in cloud services”, says Hechter.
The accounting for traditional computing investments is based on established capitalisation principles, which are clearly set out in accounting regulations. In contrast, when it comes to cloud investments the regulatory framework is still evolving to reflect the fact that more and more organisations - across the board - are turning to cloud-based offerings, in order to satisfy their computing requirements.
As a result, the process of determining the appropriate financial treatment for cloud investments is a somewhat subjective one at the moment and each case - along with its unique facts and circumstances - needs to be carefully considered.
In terms of tax, a move to the cloud might impact an organisation’s current tax structures and allowable tax treatments vary in accordance with a number of different factors.
Hechter adds that, “It is important that the approach taken in negotiations is a holistic one and that all deals take into account the costs, benefits and impacts for all parts of the business. Thus, it is crucial that Finance works together with Legal, Procurement and IT. External advisors can also prove valuable, especially in organisations that lack experience in cloud contracting”.
Cloud vendors typically build their services and pricing models and – more often than not – their contracts, around standardisation. This means that they are likely to push back against any major changes to standard agreements. Cloud providers are competing for market share, though, and so there exists the opportunity to negotiate for extra benefits and service capabilities - which could be a key source of competitive differentiation.
Cloud brings with it a range of opportunities for real innovation including reduced time-to-market, scalability and a way to drive agility and innovation. There are a host of examples of companies that are using cloud to transform their service and product offerings, improve efficiency, increase customer engagement and ultimately reap significant rewards as a result. It can be done but at the end of the day, what you get out of it depends on what you put in.