Evangelists who bang on about the potential cost-savings of web-based accounting have got it wrong, argues Aqilla’s Hugh Scantlebury. What they should be talking about is the Cloud’s flexibility.
Cost has been argued as the major driver for businesses to move away from traditional on-premises software and consider web-based applications. However, when it comes to selecting accounting applications, this is not the case – cost is one of the selection criteria, but other considerations, such functionality, ease-of-integration, ease-of-use and resilience, are also critical components.
Web-based applications do offer cost savings over traditional applications, as they remove the need for upfront capital expenditure on software and the hardware to run it, as well as ongoing maintenance contracts and upgrade costs, not forgetting the in-house specialists required to manage the application. However, web-based systems offer further reaching benefits than reduced total cost of ownership.
Web-based applications offer businesses the opportunity to streamline their accounting, have access to wider range of functionality and offer greater flexibility to staff. This is because anything that can be done in the finance system in the office can now be done at home or on the road, or anywhere that there’s an internet connection – in some cases even using an internet-enabled mobile device. This is expected to be made even easier with mobile devices that have larger screens, such as the new ‘slate’ computers that are expected to come to market over the coming months.
This flexibility of being able to use them wherever there’s an internet connection, I believe is one of the most compelling reasons for the adoption of web-based applications. It means downtime through travel (even commuting) can be reduced, and the finance team can work with colleagues even when they’re away from the office – meaning that there’ll be no such thing as a snow day, which would have been useful for many companies during the snows that fell at the beginning of 2010.
For accountants in practice too, using web-based applications means that they can work more efficiently, collaborating with clients and working through data without even having to leave their office – even a daily 30-minute journey each way to a client’s site equates to around 30 lost working days over a year.