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AIA

Accounting sector warms to the Cloud

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16th Apr 2010
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While the CRM and HR communities have been swift to adopt Cloud Computing as a new technology delivery model, finance and accounting professionals have been slower to embrace its benefits.

An oft repeated concern is that of security breaches and the reluctance of organisations to send financial data outside the corporate firewall. But this is a false concern to labour under, reckons Evan Goldberg, CTO and co-founder of Cloud ERP firm NetSuite.

“Companies are using Cloud CRM. Customer data and sales data is your organisation's life blood, so if you are genuinely concerned about security you don't want that outside the company,” he argues. “But people have become comfortable with the likes of Salesforce.com and using GoogleDocs. They have crossed that bridge: most people do have business data in the Cloud already.

“Part of the concern may be down to the personality of finance people, that they want their data really buttoned down for safety. But finance data is far more secure in our Cloud than it is on your server by the coffee pot where all someone has to do is stick a USB data stick to get at the data.”

But Goldberg concedes that concerns will remain in some quarters, but argues that firms that already outsource may be more amenable to having their data hosted by a third party. That may explain one beneficial driver towards NetSuite's alliance with Indian outsourcer Genpact which will results in a Cloud BPO offering for mid-sized firms.

“NetSuite is great enabler for BPO,” says Goldberg. “If you're an SMB, you don't want 50 different applications, you want to standardise. That's a good selling point for us. If you have your own servers in house with Sage or Great Plains on it and you need a report, you have to drill down and pull information together from different places. With NetSuite, if you need a report, we send you it in an email. If you can log into NetSuite, then you can see a dashboard with all the information. It's much, much simpler.”

For the uninitiated in the finance community, NetSuite boasts that it is a multi-country Cloud offering, able to support local accounting rules in a large number of key countries. “We have core countries where we fulfil the necessary requirements and we can go to the market in a big way, such as the UK, US and Canada,” says Goldberg. “We are judicious about what countries we add into the core set of countries, but we aim to make sure that NetSuite OneWorld works in as many countries as possible.”

NetSuite is set to see increased competition in the accounting and finance market in the coming months with the long delayed mass launch of SAP's Business ByDesign offering. But while Goldberg acknowledges that this may change the competitive landscape, it will also have beneficial effects for NetSuite.

“The sword cuts both ways,” he suggest. “SAP will bring us business. If someone is looking to switch their system, they are going to want the best. So anyone who is going to evaluate Business ByDesign is going to evaluate us as well. SAP does have a bigger brand than us, although [Netsuite CEO] Zach [Nelson] is trying single-handedly to narrow that gap!

“But [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison reminds of the time when Oracle was the only player in the database market. It's challenging to have no-one else to compare yourself with. When IBM brought out DB2, Larry says it was the best day in Oracle's history. His only fear was the DB2 would be so bad that it would turn people off from relational databases! It's same with Business ByDesign and us. When SAP says to customers 'it's ok to run your business on the Cloud', that's what we've been saying for ten years.”
 

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