Don’t be wowed Featured

7:00pm EDT February 23, 2009

In the past, processing financial data often proved to be a long and arduous task. But, today, financial professionals can quickly and easily process data thanks to technologically advanced financial software specifically created to simplify financial calculations. But, when a company is implementing financial software, it has to be careful about what packages it chooses.

“Don’t fall prey to the ‘wow factor’ — being blinded by bells and whistles and unnecessary applications that can do lots of fancy things,” says Robert B. Brenis, CGEIT, CISA, MCP, PMP, a principal in the IT Consulting group at Skoda Minotti.

Succumbing to the ‘wow factor’ often means acquiring expensive, generic software that is not exactly what you want or need to manage financial data. To avoid that outcome, according to Brenis, select financial software that not only meets your specific needs but also aligns with your IT capabilities.

Smart Business spoke to Brenis about implementing financial software and what criteria to consider when acquiring it.

What software does a company need to manage financial data?

It depends on the company’s business requirements. Those requirements determine which software applications will best help the company manage its financial data. Another factor to consider is a company’s size. There are applications available for small, medium and large businesses. What works for a mega-corporation may not be applicable for a one-person business, and vice versa. A third criterion is the type of business. As is the case with size-related packages, for instance, financial software designed for a manufacturing business may not work for a financial business.

What should a company look for when selecting financial software?

Again, it is the requirements. If you want to acquire the right financial software for your specific needs, you have to take the time to define what you need and where you are trying to go with the software one, five or 10 years down the road. Companies want software they can use today and grow with in the future. Software like that leads to huge cost savings, opposed to regularly implementing new financial applications, which can become a costly endeavor.

You also want software that is properly implemented the first time and the first time only. Thus, it is important that business professionals ascertain exactly what they want in a financial software package before they implement it. Doing so will save them the two most precious commodities in the business environment: time and money. Not only that, it will make you and your data more secure.

How can a company ensure that its financial data is secure?

There are several ways. One depends on the software’s application. For example, is it sitting on a server or on a regular PC? Either way, you need to make sure no one can hack into its environment. You also have to make sure that the financial data that helps you generate financial reports is secure. So, before the company purchases a financial package, it should have a network expert come in to make sure the system is secure.

Even if you’re housing data within the system’s environment (e.g., credit card numbers), those numbers have to be encrypted in its database. And, they have to be unreadable so someone within the organization can’t just call up the database software and use the numbers to commit fraud or, worse, take them to another company. You really have to consider both the external and internal security of data when acquiring financial software.

What are the current trends in the area of financial software?

One is ‘cloud’ computing, which allows software applications to be provided as a service over the Internet. The cloud is a metaphor for the Internet, based on how it is depicted in computer network diagrams. You don’t have to maintain the applications or worry about them being up and running. You simply pay for a service similar to your monthly utility bill, or pay on a subscription basis. There are some concerns about cloud computing, however, including security issues, regulatory compliance and long-term viability.

Another trend is the move toward more secure systems. Financial software providers are making sure their packages include enhanced data security procedures. This is in response to the increasing number of organizations, such as the banking and credit card industries, that are requiring data audits.

A final trend is the consolidation of financial software packages. Larger companies like Microsoft and Infor are buying applications at a rapid rate. Some vendors say they will continue to support their applications, but they may not continue to put out new releases. That may or may not be a problem, since the larger companies are trying to buy the best applications available and blend them together to create more efficient software — which is what companies want to acquire in the first place.

ROBERT B. BRENIS, CGEIT, CISA, MCP, PMP, is a principal in the IT Consulting group at Skoda Minotti. Reach him at (440) 449-6800 or rbrenis@skodaminotti.com.