It does seem that this adage has never been more true as in recent weeks you can see the jitters, jolts, and jounces that have happened in the global financial markets. This in turn creates stress on investors as well as corporate leaders as they strive to meet their fiscal earnings targets and in turn retain investment. How does this then boil down to the world of financial back-office improvements...quite simply, actually. You see, the time may or may not be right to invest in a business depending on its health, trajectory, market influences, leadership choices, etc, but the time is ALWAYS right to invest internally in improving how business is conducted internally. (The only case where this would be untrue is if the organization as a whole is in Titanic mode and you’re about to become a Jacksicle, in which case, we advise you to find a flotation device or the first suitcase outta there.)
For example, consider transactional documents like invoices, sales orders, remittances, or checks. In many ways, these are the unsung heroes and lifeblood of businesses. Certainly less than glamorous, but consider the ramifications of not processing these for 60-90 days...well, loss of revenue, loss of suppliers, loss of customers….loss, loss, loss. Alternatively, you can use these documents and improvements around them as a catalyst to gain control and insight into these processes which can end up padding the bottom line and supporting organizational objectives. In fact, we’d argue that it always makes sense to pursue improvements in these areas because they are invariably disaffected by broader market fluctuations as described above.
what to do when faced with troublesome document processes:
Assess - Take a hard look at how your process actually is...for better or worse. Audit pressure helps drive this kind of introspection, especially if you know you’re about to suffer a face plant when the folks with the clipboards come strolling in. Instead of waiting for that prescient crash test dummy feeling, why not conduct a financial, time in motion, and security audit on your process to determine what’s optimal, what’s average, and what’s lacking. Use industry benchmarks to adjust your gauge, otherwise, it’s kind of like using a blunderbuss to hit moving targets at a 1,000 yards downrange...not exactly going to cut the mustard!
Define - Oliver Wendell Holmes said that ‘Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.’ As such, you may have to survey the market to understand the art of the possible in the process or the space you’re looking to affect. For instance, there are many deployment options in re-working transactional document processes involving manual labor, outsourcing, on-site technology deployment, managed services, cloud-based technology, etc. You have to do some exploring and evaluating in the context of your organizational biases to determine what is going to work for you. Oh yeah, a big one here is budgeting...definitely a massive constraint, but we opine that investments in this space should be minimal from a capital outlay perspective and deliver immediate and sustained ROI, which is contrarian to legacy software models from major system integrators.
Cultivate - Remember the Dream Team? Well, if you can assemble all-star talent to help you execute your vision, you stand a chance of having something remarkable happen. Now a key piece, and probably the key piece, is who you’re choosing to partner up with as you pursue process optimization from a vendor-partner standpoint. It certainly shouldn’t be someone as helpful as the average aisle clerk at the big box hardware stores, where you wished you’d never asked for help in the first place, but someone who really can saddle up with you and get the wagon train a-movin'.
Best processes to consider for improvement:
Accounts Payable Invoice Processing - Why? Well, it’s basically scraping data off invoices, marrying it up with purchase data and automating vendor and line-item matching, then passing invoices through a digital approval process and doing this all electronically so you never have to touch one of these things again physically. Score one for your back office and score 2 for the trees. It’s also highly proven through about a gazillion (technical term) studies. Check them out at Paystream, Aberdeen, or IOMA, if you don’t believe me.
Virtual Payments - Who wouldn’t want to be rewarded for their loyalty? And who wouldn’t want to cease printing costly checks and then paying for the privilege to mail the suckers, which takes up more time and creates issues for the folks in the AR department of your supplier from a processing standpoint. Instead, monetize your payment stream through virtual credit card payments, and increase your security standards around payments and card usage, while making the process faster for all and making your CFO really really happy with his new-fangled revenue stream.
Sales Orders - Just like invoices, with many of these forms, it’s a simple thing to leverage data conversion tools overlaid with human intelligence for verification to take a painful, slow, and error-prone process, and make it hum in a fraction of the time, for a fraction of the cost, with total insight to the process
We think the best way to do this is via a document process outsourcing approach, since it's heavy on the top technology you need to reshape a process and light on the wallet, but you need to determine what's right for YOU!
We hope this helps you navigate the ups and downs of the markets, as a transformed process can always be a boon to an organization and create value for all who partake in it!