When we talk about scalability, we often think about the scalability of size, but a true cloud system also provides for the scalability of functionality. Let’s face it, your growing business doesn’t just increase the number of transactions it handles, it also increases the complexity and the diversity of processes it uses.
In my previous article, “There’s cloud and there’s true cloud,” I defined the different cloud offerings and their characteristics. A big point of differentiation for true cloud is multi-tenancy vs. one-off systems. On one-off installed systems, meeting changing requirements can put you into an endless cycle of service queues—dependent on your vendor’s timeline to scale your business. To stay within its service model of limitless clients on a single code base, true cloud is designed to make clients self-sufficient through scaling functionality. You can see how Sage Intacct has applied true cloud advantages here.
Clients shouldn’t need to bring in consultants or build out testing environments to update true cloud systems. Updates are posted by the provider and ready to use immediately. Often users can see previews and learn about new features in the weeks leading up to an update. They may also need to turn on some new features, while others that affect features they currently have just start working.
In systems that aren’t multi-tenant, either because they are on a local server or because they are created on virtual servers on a per-client basis, clients need to wait their turn and often engage the provider to allow updates to be made. Likewise, on systems hosted on a third-party platform, updates to the platform can disrupt the software, or to update the software safely, clients need to create copies of their software environment and do their own testing to ensure compatibility.
Customizations under your control
To meet the needs of a growing number of clients with unique requirements, while staying on a single code base, true cloud providers build customization tools right into the product. These tools are designed to be used by the people working in the system every day. Rather than complex scripting, though that is often provided for advanced users, the systems provide configuration menus to build out common customizations.
These could include things like rules that give warnings or stop bad data from being entered, actions like emailing stakeholders when certain events take place in the software, or custom reporting. Configuration menus also handle simple addons like adding custom fields or building custom views of records lists. They also handle configuration preferences, like certain screen layouts or on-screen messages to users.
A true cloud system makes customization a self-service activity so the client can adjust the system to their individual needs without waiting in a queue at a service center. Some systems, like Sage Intacct, include platform services that allow you to build complete applications with their own data structures and connect them right into your main system. And on true cloud, your customization won’t break because of an update.
Integrations for best-in-class results
The ultimate way to customize the functionality in a system is through integration. This can mean that you connect it to an outside system, like connecting your financial system to a CRM or a payroll system. Or it can mean connecting it to a custom process that has been coded to meet your business needs, such as calculating a special agricultural tax and adding it back into your general ledger. The former is the most common and something that every true cloud system needs to follow.
True cloud companies, such as Sage Intacct and Salesforce, that follow a best-in-class model excel at providing open systems to integrate with external systems. An open API (application programming interface) lets systems talk to one another and also lets you run key functions remotely through and API request. In Sage Intacct, this would be something like running a sales order workflow that starts in Salesforce and ends in Sage Intacct. Sage Intacct has clients that use automated API requests to keep sales teams working in Salesforce, while finance works in Sage Intacct, with each system synchronizing information around the relationship with the customer.
Though an open API may require requests to be made in a certain format or protocol like XML or JSON, they are language agnostic. Applications talking to the API can be written in any programming language that can post a request. This means the client isn’t locked into working with a specialized development group to build out their API requests.
When considering a system, remember to ask about scalability of size and also scalability of functionality. Dive into what it will take and what’s provided to help you stay self-sufficient year after year.
To learn more about how Sage Intacct provides clients with the tools to scale finance with their growing businesses, visit here.
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