Ask not what the cloud can do for your software – ask what your software can do for the cloud

By Dave Dodds

At Figured, we are a pure play in the cloud software vendor; we love it and we are excited by what it offers us as a company.

We hear a lot about software companies (both in agri and other areas) who are planning on moving their desktop software into the cloud, on the promise that this will launch them into the new world and renew the life of their product.

These companies tend to be thinking about either:

  • what the cloud can do for their software – for example, access from anywhere, device independence, lower cost of ownership, increased agility etc
  • what their software can do in the cloud – maybe some new features can be developed that exploit cloud capability, or, even better, some features that can be retired that are redundant in the cloud.

Whilst these are all great things, I am not convinced the full value of the cloud will be realised by this sort of thinking.

From our experience at Figured

Let’s take the example of Figured. Previous financial management solutions for farmers meant that, without access to real-time information, they were often looking at a different numbers, budgets and reports to their accountant, creating inefficiencies and confusion. The banks had one budget, the accountants were on another system… nothing matched up.

So, our solution started with the premise that farm financial performance could be raised by helping the farmer, their accountant, their banker and farm consultants all work collaboratively on a single farm budget, powered by a single ledger (in our case Xero), and with one well-constructed team view of the plan moving forward.

farmingteam

That meant we would need a solution that:

  • allowed each party to use the same set of information in different ways, recognising the different roles and needs of the connected users
  • supported tools beyond the financial system and looked more like a collaboration system
  • integrated with the other core processes that each member of the farming team use, such as on-paddock systems for farmers, practice management and reporting for accountants and credit management system for banks
  • allowed for data to move into, through and from Figured into other partners’ systems
  • ensures the underlying integrity of the system and data

Importantly, we realised that this wasn’t about re-creating the functionality of the best farm financial software in the cloud. It was rethinking the proposition.

How would the cloud platform allow us to solve the problem of the farming team collaborating around real-time data in a unique and new way?

It’s not about us, it’s about connections

Overtime we realised that the benefits of Figured would only be realised if we participated in an ecosystem of connected solutions, with us being merely one of the participants. We imagined a world where, for example, a change in farm payout could roll through Figured, alert accountants and farmers to the resulting effects on cashflow, quickly plan and reforecast the best response, and automatically engage the bank for additional support where an automatic credit approval could be triggered.

That’s not farm financial software anymore; that’s harnessing the power of a network of people and systems to improve the performance of farming.

Rod Drury nicely summed this up (as he tends to do) in his recent post, The end of the beginning: The next phase of cloud accounting

“Many technology providers have now built the functionality in their core product. They’re now looking at how to be the connector for their industry. In accounting, this means transitioning to become a small business platform that connects businesses with the services they need to operate efficiently.

Over time, the value of a business software package won’t just be about its functionality, it will be about the power of the network that is operating on that platform.”

It’s what we can do for the cloud

So, for us now, it’s about carefully considering the services that we should be exposing through and on the cloud. What are they, are we the best to offer them, why do we think that, how do we play nicely with others, where is new value created for all participants, and how could that value be extracted and shared?

That’s opening up a whole new stream of ideas for us and our partners. It’s proving to me that the cloud is really about creating a a new interconnection of services, organisations and people – that drive value for everyone involved.

So, if I was considering moving onto the cloud, I’d be spending some time answering “what can the cloud do for us”, but I’d make sure I had a really clear answer to “What can we do for the cloud”.