Pandemic Planning: Finance and IT Must Align to Maintain Business Continuity

by Richard Lockson

3 things companies can do to ensure Finance and IT are on the same page

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Business alignment is never more important than in times of trouble. It’s one thing for departments to work well together when business is good. It’s another to coexist and thrive when customers are churning, teams can’t connect in person, and priorities are unclear. Covid-19 has laid these issues bare for even the most successful companies.

Finance and IT haven’t always found themselves on common ground. IT’s job has been to innovate, which often means experimenting with unproven, costly technologies and processes. Finance’s job has been keeping the business afloat, which often means clamping down on projects-with-potential or cutting costs altogether.

In recent years, Finance and IT have become more closely aligned, with both organizations seeing themselves in a position to create revenue through new business models, products and services. The coronavirus pandemic has raised the stakes on this relationship. Companies that get Finance and IT operating from the same playbook will be in a stronger position going through and coming out of the current crisis. Companies that haven’t aligned these core groups are going to suffer for it.

Here are three things companies can do to ensure Finance and IT are on the same page:

Agree on Which Functions are Critical to Supporting the Business

Some Finance activities must continue in spite of internal or external crises, including AR, AP, audits, financial planning and analysis, tax reporting and payments. Finance must have access to the systems that enable these processes, which is where IT can help. Cross-training employees is also crucial. If only one employee knows how to execute the payroll process and they get sick, the business is in trouble. Finance and IT must work together to train employees to handle multiple system-related finance functions, from anywhere on any device. Other activities which definitely overlap Finance and IT include planning for and executing IPOs, mergers and acquisitions.

Determine Which Tech Tools a Company Must Have to Maintain Continuity

In cloud-centric organizations, finance executives can rest easier knowing that team members will have access to core systems. But companies that haven’t migrated fully or at all to the cloud may find themselves challenged to maintain business continuity. Finance and IT need to work together to identify and deploy a Virtual Private Network, which would allow remote staff to access data and systems on the corporate network.

Finance and IT can also agree that employees must always have the ability to communicate with customers, partners and colleagues. In a crisis, when most employees are working from home, their desk phones aren’t especially helpful. Thus, offering a VoIP infrastructure would allow companies to divert calls to employees’ mobile or desktop softphones. Finance and IT must also consider the importance of bringing the company together to quickly address changing realities. Skype, WebEx, Zoom and others have collaboration and conferencing solutions in place for any size of organization. Not all are cut from the same technology cloth, however. Be mindful of minimum connections speeds, required mobile access and expected bandwidth for employees joining from their homes. In instances where organizations do not have the proper infrastructure to have their employees securely connect even while remote, or if there is a need to set up remote customer contact centers operated on the cloud, solutions like Amazon Connect can ensure this is done quickly and securely.

Identify “Nice to Have” Tools if a Company is Operating with Minimal Disruption 

Many companies have mission-critical productivity, CRM, ERP or BI/Analytics applications in the cloud. As mentioned before, these companies are in a stronger position to weather crises. But even these companies could use added application access and security tools. Finance and IT should consider incorporating identity solutions that enable access to web-based tools via Single Sign On (SSO) technologies. These can help to ensure secure connectivity, decreased user password fatigue and a smaller attack surface for web apps.

Finance and IT should also get together on a Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) application, which can monitor activity within applications and alert teams to potential disasters. These can be very helpful when companies have users accessing applications remotely, as many are now. If headcount in the security department is non-existent, managed service providers can offload your burden while providing the security confidence your business needs.

Richard Lockson is SVP of IT at AllCloud.