[IMGCAP(1)]Accountants and auditors are often hesitant to talk to their colleagues in IT about cloud technologies, typically because of perceived security concerns, contractual issues, but in reality IT executives have largely warmed up to the cloud and its strategic value. However, even the leading IT Departments are still often slow to approve and implement these technologies.
Why is this the case? Is there a fundamental lack of understanding with regard to how cloud technology works? Have negative experiences in the past, such as loss of data or security breaches, led IT departments to stay within the comfort zone of generic, internally managed solutions?
While these issues might hinder the implementation of cloud-based solutions for audit and accounting teams, the concerns have really evolved. The greater obstacle is that, as cloud services and applications are becoming more widely known as effective solutions and sought after by various groups across the organization, IT departments are being bombarded with requests for new technologies from many disparate functions and departments.
Consider for a moment the challenge that an IT manager faces when accounting, finance, internal audit, and others all come knocking on the door to discuss transitioning to the cloud, requiring unforeseen integrations between systems which they do not own.
Even though IT managers are becoming more accustomed to the implementation of cloud technologies, each request must be vetted and presented to senior management on a case-by case basis. The arduous integration of disparate cloud applications purchased by different groups quickly becomes a significant pain point for the IT team, thus creating a potentially significant roadblock.
Changing the Dynamic
Since one of the major barricades to cloud technology implementation is integration and management, it’s important for the leaders in accounting, finance, and audit departments to accept that when presenting a new type of technology to IT, the response is likely to be something along these lines: “Alright, I understand that this helps you achieve your objectives more efficiently, but I just received a request from the sales team for the same type of technology on a different platform. How am I going to get these two technologies to work together?”
The second challenge IT will need to address is reporting. If they bring a handful of cloud systems to executive management and have found a way for all of the systems to ‘talk to each other,’ management is going to want to know how all of the information they are interested in will be consolidated and reported. In fact, it is likely management has already informed IT that it wants all reporting to come through a certain tool or in a certain format in order to avoid having to sift through different systems and reports.
While the cloud is here to stay and IT recognizes that they must embrace ways to implement varying technologies across departments, they face enormous challenges in consolidating those technologies in a way that ultimately supports the organization’s overall strategic objectives.
The Right Approach
In order to improve the process for everyone and create a situation in which the team carries an influential voice in implementing the right services, when approaching IT management, accounting and finance teams should consider these key pieces of advice.
1. First, engage the IT department early on. Inquire about where the IT team is in terms of integrating different cloud systems. Emphasize that you want to understand what the strategy is with regard to consolidating these different technologies and implementing them throughout the company. Be thoughtful with respect to that strategy when considering potential services.
Also, inquire about items that are non-negotiable from IT’s perspective. It’s best to put these matters on the table upfront. For example, perhaps the technology being requested has to support mobile devices or other technologies that are already being used across the firm. If the technology being requested can’t do so, it might not make sense to further the discussion.
If needs are addressed early on, IT is fully knowledgeable of the type of technology being requested, and enough time is provided to work out the integration details ahead of approaching senior management, IT will be more useful to listen and help find a way to support the technology of first choice.
2. Position the technology as valuable in achieving corporate objectives across all levels of the organization, not just for your department. Rather than viewing IT as a hurdle, approach your IT officer as a partner and advocate of the systems that will deliver value to the entire business and ultimately, make everyone more successful. In other words, think of those within the IT department as heroes to the organization and approach them in a corresponding manner.
3. Find an ally within the IT department that understands the required accounting, finance, or audit functionality well enough to see why the specific technology being requested is important. If you don’t have an advocate to thoroughly and correctly inform management of the need, the chance of management being immediately dismissive is much higher. Unfortunately, it is often the case that the IT point of contact will suggest continued use of a generic solution that doesn’t really solve the fundamental, strategic needs that led to the request for cloud technology in the first place.
In order for accounting, finance, and audit teams to take advantage of cloud technologies, they need to approach the request with a strategy in mind and use their partners in the IT department as promoters of change, rather than treating them as a barrier to achieving higher levels of productivity. Bottom line, it is important for all parties—IT, internal teams, and management—to work together in finding solutions to key issues blocking implementation.
Dan Zitting is the vice president, product management & design at audit and risk management product maker ACL Services (http://www.acl.com) where he is responsible for product management, design, and user experience all of the company’s products. He is a CPA, CITP, and a Certified Information System Auditor. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Colorado State University and a Master of Science from University of Notre Dame.