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Should Technology Trump New Hires for Growth?

The natural reaction many CFOs have to launching growth efforts is to begin hiring new employees to carry out new deployments. Assuming the growth efforts are successful, the hires can be justified in the long run. But there's another way to help the company reach its highest profit margins and achieve the maximum levels of staff productivity.

For some companies, in recent times, the answer comes in the form of technology, namely the cloud, which enables companies to capitalize on the resources and tech advances of a third party, and gain flexibility and scalability – without adding to their headcount.

During the Proformative webinar "Higher Growth, Not Hire Staff" held on May 16, 2013, Marc Linden, CFO at cloud accounting software provider Intacct, discussed how the cloud is a much smarter solution to supplement growth than adding more employees who expect to be paid well in their roles, want to be managed a certain way, and may not fit in well with their colleagues. Moreover, they take up valuable space on payroll even if they're not needed at all times.

"If you rely on [hiring] too much, you can get stuck in a situation that cannot be healthy for your finance organization or company as a whole," said Linden.

Technology Can Streamline Operations
CFOs who have yet to take advantage of the potential of automating processes are not only wasting the time of many of their staff members, they are also affecting the efficiency their employees are able to achieve. According to statistics compiled by enterprise process automation provider Redwood Software, 94 percent of the 200 U.S. companies consider business process automation an important component of their overall productivity.

Through automation, CFOs have the benefit of consolidating their financial statements, reviewing budgets and spending, viewing reports in real-time, and closing the books when figures are deemed correct. By having access to all of these important processes in one solution, CFOs may find that they don't necessarily need to hire more people when the business is ready to expand, according to the webinar.

"Technologies are built to integrate, so through modern interfaces that are web-services driven, you can achieve a level of integration across your different business systems that was either impossible before, or hugely expensive to achieve and maintain," said Linden. "And you can do that without the risk that integrations used to carry."

Integrating Processes Leads to Strong Customer Relationships
The cloud enables companies to lean less heavily on their IT department, reduce the capital expenditures used to maintain their own hardware and storage, and integrate a large number of processes into one environment. A Forbes article stated that using solutions such as customer relationship management (CRM) software in the cloud can give CFOs an added boost because it gives them the ability to access insights in real-time, such as nuances of customers, gain greater insights about prospective clients, and infuse customer intelligence into reports to reshape the way companies interact with their customers.

These solutions can also help internally with financial planning or business forecasting tools.

"Whether it's CRM, whether it's a special purpose, high-end budgeting and planning tool, it doesn't matter," said Linden. "You should no longer be afraid of integrating that, so that you get all the information you need for very sophisticated reporting, including KPI reports, into your finance system and you do it without having to do manual entry, except for all the errors that are implicit in that."