The extent of the changes that have taken place within the accounting and ERP solution landscape in the past few years is astonishing. Leading the charge have been Amazon and Microsoft, who have disrupted and changed the computing landscape with Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure. Beyond just feature and aesthetics updates, cloud adoption has changed everything about the way cloud financial systems are developed and deployed.
Below are just a few of the changes we have seen as a result of cloud adoption:
- IT professionals no longer have to concern themselves with replacing aging equipment, and can order and implement a new cloud server in a matter of hours.
- Developers approach projects and architect solutions with collaboration and data sharing capabilities.
- Consultants can focus on the latest features and attributes of cloud ERP systems because they no longer need to be experts in multiple supported versions of each solution.
- New acronyms and jargon have developed such as:
- SaaS – Software as a Service
- IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service
- IoT – Internet of Things
- Hosting Services
These changes have been embraced by IT professionals and financial executives alike as a vision of tomorrow, and the pace of this change only seems to be accelerating.
While rapidly changing technology offers many benefits, it is not without its downsides. Increasing threats to data security and a growing need to access micro-app integration and functionality mean that keeping your accounting system updated with the latest features and patches is critical. Traditionally, this has been a costly endeavor due to annual maintenance and support fees, consultant time to ensure all processes (including customizations) are functional, system down time, and required training time. As a results, annual version upgrades are a luxury that many small businesses cannot afford.
However, the three cloud computing leaders in the middle market – QuickBooks Online, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central, and Oracle NetSuite – offer an alternative. Each provides semi-annual updates at no additional charge to ensure all users – regardless of size – have the latest version.
QuickBooks Online (QBO) provides an environment for easy configuration and data loading that can be running and fully functional in a matter of a few hours. Keep in mind, the trade-off for speed is a limited customization ability within the software. However, developers have produced many QBO micro-apps that greatly enhance features and functionality. As these apps proliferate, there are fewer and fewer limitations with QuickBooks.
Business Central, Microsoft’s lead offering in the cloud space, has made significant strides in the marketplace. When combined with the Microsoft 365 stack of micro-apps which seamlessly integrate with Business Central, the sum of the parts becomes greater than the whole. Users will be able to easily integrate their accounting and business management processes with favorite applications such as Outlook, Word, and Excel, and will be able to take advantage of Microsoft Office 365’s extensive set of offerings for reporting and dashboarding. This all leads to increased productivity and will allow your team to be analysts, as opposed to transaction processors.
Oracle NetSuite is the standard by which all cloud ERP solutions are judged. Its powerful, comprehensive engine remains at the forefront as the most customizable of the mid-market solutions. Targeted vertical solutions, developed through its Suite Success series of bundles, offer a near turn-key, standard customization scheme centered on the vertical (e.g. professional services, manufacturing, distribution, Not-for-Profit, etc.). NetSuite does require more sophisticated financial system support capabilities as compared to the other two solutions. However, it offers significant depth and scale as your organization grows and demands more financial management capabilities.
There are exciting opportunities for middle market organizations to leverage the latest financial system capabilities in a highly cost effective and maintenance-free manner. Taking advantage of these opportunities will enable organizations to ultimately achieve increased process efficiencies and operational capabilities while reducing overall software maintenance and IT management costs.
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