IDU | Budgeting Forecasting and Reporting Solutions: May 2019

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Why cloud-first shouldn’t mean cloud-only

It’s been ten years since Oracle’s Larry Ellison had his Thomas Watson moment, dismissing cloud computing as a fad, nonsense and absurd. Clearly, in the same way that the number of computers in use around the world didn’t cap out at five units, as IBM’s Watson predicted in 1943, cloud computing has gone from strength to strength, with worldwide spend on cloud infrastructure in 2018 estimated at in excess of $80 billion and still growing.

Fast forward a short decade, and it’s almost as if cloud computing is barely worth a mention. It’s a bit like saying an appliance is powered by electricity. Well, obviously… We take cloud’s economic model as table stakes now: allowing companies of all sizes to access the best services for them, quickly, cost-effectively and with minimal support required, whether or not the vendor has set up shop in their country. Cloud services helped break the stranglehold of the black box ERP vendors giving companies flexibility, user-friendly interfaces and solutions to niche requirements. Crucially they, on the whole, improved security and allowed SMEs, and even individuals, to access enterprise-grade software services.

But, in comparison to the latest headline grabbing buzzwords, such as AI and machine learning, in some quarters cloud is now fairly middle of the road. So why am I still writing about it today?

Well, it’s not plain sailing just yet. And it’s worth checking in on some of the assumptions around cloud we might wrongly think are foregone conclusions.

I’ve written about one before: the incompatibility between the latest legislation to protect personal identification information, such as Europe’s GDPR, and laws trying to fight terrorism, such as the US’s CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act), which allows the US authorities to request data from US service providers, wherever in the world this data is stored, and without telling the people whose personal data is involved. Given that four out of five of the top cloud service providers by market share are US companies – that’s a lot of personal information about a lot of people including US and non-US citizens. CLOUD and GDPR are clearly in direct opposition to each other, and furthermore both complicate cloud services where the service provider, the data centre, the company collecting the personal identification data and the customer could be each located in separate countries. For now, the stalemate between GDPR and CLOUD continues.

Another assumption that we should be careful of making is that everyone around the world has the same access to internet bandwidth and data as the highly urbanised regions of the developed world – where, typically, cloud services are designed and built. Despite the massive advances in internet connectivity around the globe, it is still the case that some countries, and also remoter regions in well-connected nations, don’t have the level of access to always-on internet connectivity required by cloud services.

Take Tuvalu, the South Pacific island nation, and one of our clients. Ironically, for a country whose second biggest export is the .tv top level internet domain name, it is one of most unconnected countries in the world. While connectivity via a submarine fibre optical cable is in planning, it is currently connected to the rest of the world via limited, and expensive, satellite communications. Cloud computing services are simply a non-starter here.

Likewise that branch office in a small town that still only has basic DSL or dial-up connectivity, or a mining operation in a distant province, won’t benefit from the same advantages of the cloud-based service as the head office in the city, and, in a worst case scenario, may end up in a complete disconnect from the HQ.

And, even when internet connectivity is broadly universal, a secondary issue such as regular power outages could impact a company or individual’s ability to access cloud services. An SME in a big city like Johannesburg or Lagos that can’t afford a generator could be disconnected from basics such as email during a power outage.

In a cloud-first world, these branch and field offices, and SMEs, won’t have the same options of services to choose from and subsequent productivity gains thanks to a better fitting offering. Instead of being able to self-service, they’ll be stuck in the black box consultant loop, with lengthy installation and customisation loops, and an invoice to match. Their ability to collaborate will be limited, their data will be slightly out of date and out of joint, and they’ll miss out on cloud economies of scale. And mothership will miss out on critical input from the coalface of their organisation.

So sure, think cloud-first, but don’t think cloud-only. Consider ways to practically enable your people who don’t have the same access to the cloud that you do, without regressing back to the days of the mega-installation of on-premise kit.

As published AccountingWeb - May 2019 

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Improved Accountability and Ownership at RAHS

The Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society of South Australia Inc. (RAHS) is the organiser of the state's largest ticketed event, the Royal Adelaide Show, which attracts approximately 30% of South Australia's population. Further to this, the Adelaide Showground provides facilities to more than 100 exhibitions, conventions and banquets each year.

The Royal Agricultural & Horticultural Society SA implemented the Enterprise Edition of idu-Concept’s Budgeting & Reporting Modules in 2018.  This has led to a significant change in their day-to-day operation in comparison to the excel macro workbooks that were being used prior to implementing IDU.

idu-Concept allows for real-time, up to date analysis of actual against budget figures, enabling all divisional managers to track their progress and thus reduces the month end reporting processes. Managers are able to review their results at any time in the month, and to adapt accordingly.

Pressures and demands on finance staff have been reduced as non-financial managers can now access their information directly from idu-Concept whereas previously they had to request detailed reports from the finance department.

“With all staff able to concurrently access individual project areas within idu-Concept and either review results, set budgets or make changes, our 'budget setting season' is less stressful for all and reduces the time needed for the process” - Hayley Herbst, General Manager Finance & Corporate

The ability to assign access to specific areas of the budget to specific staff members has led to greater accountability within those areas.

Using idu-Concept has streamlined the overall budgeting process, and allows non-finance staff to access their areas, interrogate costs and understand how they are tracking against budget without having to request reports from Finance or wait for excel workbooks to be updated.

“The software has interfaced directly with our job costing software and has provided access to our staff who have now taken ownership of their budgets. The ability to drill down to the financial entries has given a visibility to the actual versus budget results that has been well received by staff at all levels” – Vicki Baulderstone, Finance Officer

The monthly board reporting can now involve all areas of the business simultaneously and has reduced the amount of time required to complete the review of the financials. The annual budget process has input from all levels of management and therefore has greater commitment to the budget from the staff.

About The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia
The Royal Agricultural and Horticultural Society of South Australia was founded in November 1839 as the South Australian Agricultural Society "for the advancement of agricultural and pastoral knowledge, and to promote the development of the natural resources of our noble colony."  They are responsible for staging of the Royal Adelaide Show, Royal Adelaide Wine Show and other events. The Society is a membership-based, non-profit organisation – its main aim is to encourage the pursuit of excellence in primary industry, to educate the public about rural product and to encourage young people in their pursuit of agricultural education.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

When is it time to move to specialised software?

Spreadsheets are a wonderful tool and have served many a small business’ budgeting, forecasting and planning needs. But there comes a time when you need to look at moving across to specialised financial software that gives you more control over, and insight into, your financial information.
Here are 4 ways to know that time has come…

Your business is growing in size and complexity 
Spreadsheets are perfectly fine for small simple companies; but as you start to grow and expand your services or gain employees and even potentially expand your focus, you need more input and have to start consolidating spreadsheets. Macros and formulas get increasingly complicated and can break and your spreadsheets become unusable. 

There are currently few safeguards for data governance, or data quality, making spreadsheets a poor choice for organisations that need to share data or conduct complex analysis.  

Specialised CPM software removes the need for sending spreadsheets back and forth, it gives everyone an accurate real-time view of the data within the database.

Multiple businesses under one company
Consolidating budgets and forecasts across multiple departments is difficult enough; trying to do so with multiple departments from multiple businesses in a spreadsheet is pure madness. 

Different businesses have different reporting needs, they need different information to make the right decisions for their budgeting, forecasting and planning. And one error made in one department of one of the businesses can leave analysis of the bigger picture for the holding company impossible and completely skewed. 

Specialised software provides you with the means to pull multiple versions of reports based on the information you need, and allows you to get the meaningful analysis you need to make your business decisions. 

Too many cooks...
In a smaller business, there is usually one person who manages your finances - one person collecting data, inputting it and creating reports from it. Spreadsheets are created for this - calculating values and crunching numbers. The only weakness in this set up is that one person. 

Once you start growing, you will start having more managers who have valuable information to contribute and have a need for pulling their own reports with data relevant to their own divisions or departments. If all of these people begin interacting with that spreadsheet, the weaknesses and room for error begin to multiply. 

This is the time to look at a dedicated software solution that can offer more than the basics. 

“User Friendly” is more than words
When you want to be able to get input and feedback from non-financial users in your business - the people who are on the front line, managing your business; you need your data to be accessible and understandable to everyone. 

Spreadsheets and endless lists of data are extremely intimidating to people who are not financially inclined, leading to resistance and avoidance; delaying your budgeting process and causing undue stress for all involved. 

There is dedicated financial software that is specially designed to be properly user friendly; making the budgeting and forecasting process simple and beneficial to financial and non-financial users.  

With Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solutions becoming readily available in the Cloud there is no better time to look at making this change. Software-as-a-Service solutions like IDU Cloud are a cost-effective alternative for companies looking to adopt a world class specialist budgeting, forecasting and reporting solution without large capital expenditure outlays.