By Chen Amit, Co-Founder & CEO, Tipalti

In the blink of an eye, the cloud has shifted from being a tech conference buzzword to an integrated and seamless part of business operations. The takeover began on front-end business systems, resulting in streamlined interactions, increased company visibility, and automated customer service.

Today, companies are pushing cloud adoption further by using digital-first applications to modernize their back-end processes with software as a service (SaaS) solutions. SaaS companies have examined traditional business workflows and created secure, efficient systems that present digital-first solutions like sales automation, accounts payable automation, HR management, customer relationship management, and much more.

Now, savvy businesses leverage the cloud to benefit not only customers but also their internal operations.

Adopting a Digital-First Approach

Companies with an eye on the future have already taken a digital-first approach to communications and document management—in-person meetings, file cabinets, and fax machines are now considered relics of the past.

Some companies find additional value in shifting back-end operations to the cloud, allowing them to adapt to short-term realities and adjust for long-term strategies. Companies often find that adopting a digital-first mindset in broader aspects of their business lets them reap rewards that would have been out of reach before.

Although transitioning to the cloud hasn’t been without challenges for companies, cloud-based offerings have already improved reliability, security, and efficiency—setting them up as key players for the future.

Maintaining Reliability in an Unreliable World

Cloud-based offerings provide businesses with truly modernized solutions that enable them to thrive in increasingly competitive environments. SaaS solutions are tailored to be consistent, reliable platforms for automating business operations.

Businesses that rely on stable operating frameworks will have the best foundation for success in competing in global markets and maintaining reliability when uncertainty abounds. As digital-first solutions expand in scope, these products provide the most stability for businesses, allowing them to weather any storms that come.

Decision-makers must take an active role in establishing a firm base for their businesses to operate with consistency. Having a solid foundation then enables a business to grow and adapt to new circumstances.

This combination of reliability and adaptability doesn’t come from holding on to legacy business operations. Companies that don’t migrate to cloud-based solutions might miss out on future opportunities due to outdated systems that can’t scale with a growing business.

To compete at higher levels, both large and small companies need a reliable foundation and increased levels of adaptability and security. The digital-first approach provides convenient access to both.

Keeping Data Secure

When the tech sector first rolled out cloud applications, companies worried about data security. How could a data center located outside the office be as secure as in-house systems that an employee could touch and monitor? At the time, a company’s data was simply too important to be trusted on digital platforms.

However, many companies realized that their internal data systems are also vulnerable to unexpected security risks. Security compromises moved much faster than their own IT departments could keep up with—and data breaches occurred.

As SaaS companies expand cloud offerings with enhanced security, traditional concepts of what constitutes security are evolving. Now, SaaS companies provide better data security than most in-house setups. Cloud-based offerings have entire teams dedicated to security and are industry-leading experts in maintaining data integrity.

True data security extends beyond keeping a locked file cabinet or helping an employee recover a forgotten password. Automated business systems come with built-in security features like authenticated role-based access, data encryption and protection, and compromise detection.

Initially, CIOs and IT department heads took the lead with data security. Now, CFOs and company financial leaders need to join the conversation. Internal IT departments can struggle to keep up with data sensitivity needs, so all decision-makers must advocate for business platforms with the highest available levels of security.

In today’s environment, cloud-based, digital-first applications offer security levels that most companies could never achieve independently.

Maximizing Efficiency with Digital-First Systems

Beyond security, businesses worldwide are transitioning to digital-first platforms to simplify internal workflows for their employees. Employees are the lifeblood of a company. Their day-to-day actions determine whether or not a company is achieving its goals.

Employees have become accustomed to interacting with digital front-end applications, so upgrading back-end applications is a natural next step. Cloud-based systems can replace and modernize internal workflows that currently rely on piles of paperwork.

Antiquated processes that rely on multiple manual tasks take employee time away from activities that further propel the company forward. Adopting digital-first strategies transition labor-intensive duties to automated workflows—enabling employees to engage in higher-level tasks.

For example, accounts payable is the most time-consuming function in finance departments. Instead of focusing on supporting a business’s short and long-term needs, employees spend time and resources doing repetitive work like writing and mailing checks. A digital solution like accounts payable automation allows a company to streamline these back-end processes and elevate their employees to higher-value, strategic roles.

Like data security, CFOs and company financial leaders must investigate ways to streamline operations for improved efficiencies. Relying on old systems might get the job done. But employee time and brainpower are better spent on other financial activities like forecasting, analysis, improving scalability, increasing productivity, and enhancing cost controls.

The Next Wave of Digital Solutions Is Here

As more and more companies transition to digital-first solutions, businesses that continue to resist cloud offerings risk being left behind. Similar to how companies migrated to the cloud for communications and document management, the same scalability and security levels are now available for internal workflows.

In the past, innovation has typically been perceived as a trait of CEOs or groundbreaking software developers. However, in today’s competitive business environment, CFOs and financial leaders must also innovate to allow their companies to achieve sustainable success. Innovation requires planning into the future to successfully expand, scale, and adapt.

Partnering with SaaS platforms allows companies to grow towards their goals with increased flexibility and security. The cloud is here to stay, and digital-first solutions are the wave of the future.