Businesses moving away from on-premises platforms to a full cloud-based solution need to weigh their options for maximum continuity.

With organizations facing business-continuity, cash-flow and supply-chain challenges, it is now more important than ever for them to have a strong foundation in place for their business systems.

Whether we are talking about people, processes, security, or technology, businesses that are agile and able to adapt to change quickly will emerge as leaders during this crisis.

To provoke thought on how a modern suite of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications can provide a complete, agile, secure, and integrated solution across a range of business functions such as finance and accounting, procurement, HR, and sales, Adrian Johnston, Senior Vice President of Cloud Applications (SaaS), Japan and Asia Pacific, Oracle, answers some questions for DigiconAsia,with examples of use cases across the region.

DigiconAsia: in today’s extraordinary business climate in the Asia Pacific region, how can technology help organizations support business continuity?

Adrian Johnston (AJ): Whether we are talking about people, processes, security, or technology… businesses that are agile and able to adapt to change quickly will emerge as leaders during this crisis.

It is crucial that businesses continue to innovate and pivot in order to achieve their business goals. Managing core processes and customer experience data on a single platform helps create operational efficiency, improves insights, enhances decision-making and enables businesses to be nimble and outpace market changes.

A modern suite of SaaS applications provides a complete, agile, secure, and integrated solution for an entire business, across finance and accounting, procurement, project management, supply chain, transportation management, HR, sales, customer service, marketing and more.

DigiconAsia: How can SaaS solutions help businesses in the region to cope with business disruptions?

AJ: In recent times, many companies’ employees have had to shift to working from home. This change has brought new ways of working digitally. Some finance teams have experienced an easier transition than others with the help of cloud technology that is automating their business processes and allowing them to better cope with closing the books remotely.

One such example is Asia Commercial Bank, one of the largest retail banks in Vietnam that deployed cloud technology to streamline all finance, procurement and project-expense management processes. Since then, the bank has been able to accelerate its month-end close and reporting cycles by 50%. Moving to the cloud also meant it no longer had to manage these applications in its own data centre.

Another example of successful use of technology to enable business continuity is SRL Diagnostics, one of India’s largest private-testing laboratories. They are using the cloud to manage a high volume of queries from their patients coming through to their website, mobile app and calls to the customer service center. Patients can now receive results of any tests within 24 hours via various digital channels like email, etc.

Save the children, the largest operating child rights humanitarian non-profit organization in India, is working round-the-clock to make sure that life gets a little easier for underprivileged sections of the society. With cloud technologies, they are able to ensure seamless flow of supplies, resources, funds and procurement and make sure that there is no disruption in the relief work.

DigiconAsia: How are businesses getting more benefits by leveraging emerging technologies as compared to on-premise solutions?

AJ: Emerging technologies are impacting business outcomes, especially in today’s unprecedented times. Highly customized on-premise solutions are siloed and often require multiyear deployments to get things right. They simply lack the agility, speed, interoperability and simplicity required to tap into the business benefits of technologies such as AI, digital assistants and Internet of Things. This is why many organizations are turning to SaaS consumption models to more easily ‘turn on’ subscription models for their finance, operations, HR, digital supply chain and customer experience departments.

One such example is New Zealand’s Inland Revenue Authority, who are now running all of its projects on an external cloud infrastructure to save time. Previously, its budgets were managed in spreadsheets that required a lot of manual work to fill-in or update. With the new cloud solution and easy access to emerging technologies, all the information is captured in one solution, which has become a single source of truth and eliminated extra manual work.

DigiconAsia: How do you see technologies like AI and Machine Learning transforming finance from a support function to a strategic one?

AJ: Recently, Oracle and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) published a Competitive Edge Report based on a global survey of 700 finance and operations managers, and executives across 13 countries. This research found that emerging technologies have passed the adoption tipping point. Now they are exceeding expectations and creating significant competitive advantage for organizations.

In the survey, 85% of respondents believed AI and Machine Learning are “catalysts for change” needed for finance organizations to transform from reporting on ‘what’ is happening to ‘why’ things are happening; and 83% of CFO respondents agreed that AI will help them rethink outdated business processes and strategies by completely automating them.

In an uncertain world, finance leaders are facing the biggest challenge of their careers. Recognizing that there may be no easy solution to the challenges they face, Oracle has just announced updates to our ERP and EPM solutions to support them in adapting and planning for whatever comes next.

Designed to help finance teams rapidly adapt, explore new business models, improve strategic decision-making and begin the journey back to growth, the improvements will help our users to leverage AI, digital assistants and analytics to improve controls, and build resilient and adaptable businesses.

As we slowly and cautiously proceed towards a new approach to life amidst continuing disruptions, a business’ most precious asset is the power to choose and shape their own future. It may seem counterintuitive, but now is exactly the right time to plan ahead. While businesses may not feel like they can control what happens next, they can always choose how to react. This is where emerging technologies can assist in presenting multiple options to respond and enable businesses to outpace change.