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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Can You Close Your Books Remotely?

Rudolph Lukez
Director, ERP Product Marketing, Oracle

Would it surprise you to know that a 60-year-old programming language runs nearly 90% of Fortune 500 business software applications? COBOL, developed in 1959, is also still the engine behind 70% of business logic and general information systems in the private and government sectors. While businesses and government organizations still rely on this legacy programming language for their mission-critical systems, it can be a major stumbling block to the modern enterprise. 

To add to this, many finance teams are working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, accessing legacy, on-premise systems via virtual private networks (VPNs) that slow down processes. While organizations have been aware of the problems with legacy systems and on-premise applications (or both) for some time, the current crisis has made the challenges painfully obvious.

Closing the books suddenly a major challenge

COVID-19 is testing finance teams like never before. For many state governments, the deluge of new unemployment claims is overloading antiquated, mainframe systems. CNN reported recently that many state governments are urgently looking for COBOL programmers to help deal with their decades-old systems or shift to more flexible and agile systems. To make matters worse, most COBOL programmers are older, their numbers are shrinking, and COBOL hasn’t been taught in most colleges and universities since the 1980s. Kansas, Connecticut, and New Jersey’s governors all face a huge backload of unemployment claims as the old mainframe-based systems simply can’t keep up with the workload. 

Additionally, in many organizations, highly dispersed work-at-home finance teams and auditors are being asked to complete quarter-end closings and other periodic reporting remotely without skipping a beat.

Organizations with cloud finance systems fare better

Organizations that have already made the move to cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) find themselves better prepared to adjust and deal with today’s unexpected circumstances. For many of these organizations, this is the first time they have had to close the books remotely. When finance systems are delivered via a SaaS (software as a service) model, it provides an inherent advantage. Not only can finance teams access the system remotely, they can work via their mobile devices. They have one set of shared data, integrated workflows, and always-up-to-date technology. And, depending on the ERP provider, they don’t need to worry about security.

An April 1, 2020 article in The Wall Street Journal notes, “Companies that rely heavily on cloud-computing technology to automate accruals, adjustments and internal transactions may be in for a smoother close than those that use on-premise technology on virtual private networks or enter data into spreadsheets manually.”

Now’s a good time to reassess your ERP strategy

As economic recovery begins, you can take the opportunity to reassess your current ERP solution and make a strategic move to SaaS ERP. The advantages include:

An integrated suite of tools. Your ERP solution has to handle accounting, financial planning and analysis, revenue recognition, governance, risk management, compliance, procurement, projects, financial close, reporting, and more. SaaS ERP can help you take advantage of increased speed, scalability and new technologies. Intelligence-driven applications can give you insights to make better decisions faster. Sophisticated technologies like AI and machine learning can automate tasks and mine value from your data in ways that simply aren’t possible with manual processes.

An agile finance model. With the right ERP cloud solution, you’ll be able to complete processes such as closing the books, issuing reports, and filing regulatory compliance statements faster, better, and at lower cost. An integrated solution can eliminate the need for customization and provide access to AI and machine learning technologies to build new, more agile finance operating models

Business insight and efficiency. With a shared data model and processes, you can gain greater analytical insights and get real-time reporting. You’ll also benefit from a consistent reporting environment that offers self-service reporting tools focused on reducing process inefficiencies, leveraging analytics, and reporting with context.

We can’t downplay what individuals and organizations are experiencing during the current crisis. But for organizations that want to come out of it stronger and more ready to face the unknown challenges that lie in the future, there’s an opportunity to move forward with modern finance solutions that can help them meet the future with more confidence.

Learn more about closing your books remotely with Oracle ERP and EPM Cloud.

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