Finance function is leading SMEs to the Cloud, says Advanced CTO

SMEs across the UK are breaking down barriers to the Cloud, a technology once but now no longer seen as the domain of large enterprises. These are the words of CTO Jon Wrennall at British software and services company Advanced, who also says that finance – not technology – teams are the ones making important decisions around digital strategy.

As holder of the purse strings and side-kick of the managing director or business owner, the financial director or controller in SMEs is increasingly acting as the new lynchpin for embracing technologies that will boost productivity and increase agility. They have become frustrated with entire departments working in silos and are looking to the Cloud to gain visibility and control of key business processes and operations in real-time. Furthermore, with ongoing Brexit negotiations, some are also feeling immense pressure to track and manage spend effectively.

The conversation among British SMEs is changing. It’s no longer if, but when, they move to the Cloud. They want to become a connected business that is fit for the future, and we are seeing finance leaders take up the role of digital pioneer. After all, they handle huge amounts of data that can positively influence the running of every single part of the business, so they are often the first to understand the benefits the Cloud can deliver.

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According to Advanced, SMEs are particularly investing in scalable Cloud accounting software to gain a better overview of their finances and improve collaboration as well as productivity. It’s helping users instantly access, store and share information across multiple devices and platforms, making rudimentary software such as spreadsheets a thing of the past.

Reassuringly, businesses across all sectors recognise they need transparency and control if they are to make properly informed decisions about the future. And finance leaders are telling us they want the Cloud to give them a complete view of the business, which means real-time analysis providing reports on spend, leads and orders for example. This also means they can improve their support for sales, customer service and marketing teams to help them make better, more timely decisions based on up-to-date and accurate data.

New customers include sports venue Edgbaston Stadium, owned by the Warwickshire County Cricket Club, design and manufacturing firm The Mayfield Group, security specialist Charter Global, The Alternative Pallet Company through to CTI Balloons, distributors of metalised balloons and packaging manufacturer, Poppypac.

In June last year, Advanced launched a Cloud-first strategy to deliver a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution that is accessible and adaptable for any size organisation. Its SME Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution, Advanced Business Cloud Essentials, has become a key tool for supporting growth and dealing with change. It gives finance teams a unified view of the business and encourages faster and better-informed decisions, which is critical to understanding how to adapt and grow for the future. There has been strong demand from SMEs keen to embrace the Cloud to run their critical business operations and Advanced is excited about the potential for growth it represents over the coming 12 months.

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According to the Advanced Trends Report 2017/2018, 67% of companies in the UK have invested in Cloud-based systems. Of the respondents that currently do not have a Cloud solution, a third are looking or planning to adopt Cloud technology. Interestingly, 27% of this Cloud adoption is being driven by leaders within the finance department.

It’s clear that SMEs have grasped that there is a pressing need to migrate their applications to the Cloud if they are to be able to drive their business competitively in the future and survive the pace of change. In doing so, finance decision makers want to be more connected with the rest of the business and move their teams beyond the back office. The Cloud can increase staff performance and drive productivity while avoiding upfront costs typically associated with technology systems.

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