Process improvement in the mid-tier office of finance
I’ve blogged previously about my recent day at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Australia in Sydney. John Cleary from Blue Chip Consulting ran an excellent session on “Applied Corporate Strategy for the Finance Professional”. One of his sections focussed closely on process excellence, a topic close to my heart. Process is a key element of achieving the company objectives.
Summarising John’s proposition, a company needs a strategy that is specific, measurable and time constrained. It needs capable and motivated people who willingly embrace the disciplines of the business. These people need to execute efficient and effective business processes. And those processes need to be embedded and controlled by appropriately procured and implemented systems. Without technology you cannot hope to align the business to the strategy.
However technology is never the source of a process problem. Indeed, implementing technology without addressing a process problem just speeds up the time it takes to experience the problem. Fix your processes and apply them with technology. Of course total process excellence is an unattainable goal. Every time you improve something in a process you expose the next weakest link in the chain. So process excellence is a continuous journey.
The challenge for most organisations is that they have invested heavily in their current business applications like BI, ERP, CRM, timesheets etc and are still recovering their return on investment. Few have the budget nor the appetite to throw out the old for the new. Luckily there is an alternative. Applications exist that act as ‘wrappers’ and extend the life span of older legacy applications and improve the day to day efficiency. These can be implemented without the significant change management challenges that come with changing the underlying transaction systems.
Here’s an example. Opening the ERP and selecting ‘new supplier’ is not the first task of onboarding a supplier into the business. Long before you do that there have been a myriad of things done, usually by people outside of finance. However most ERPs assume the ‘new supplier’ function is where that process starts. In reality, someone out there in the business has said they want to source a new item or service. Someone has shopped around to see what potential suppliers exist. Perhaps a tender or RFP assessment and due diligence process has been done. A suitable vendor has been selected and all the necessary information has been assembled to be able to trade with them. Commercial details, catalogues, service levels, sales, support and financial contacts, etc. Only now are we ready to login to the ERP and do the ‘new supplier’ form.
Imagine if all of that pre-work and selection could be automated, trafficked and orchestrated so that the final new supplier record could be automatically created in the ERP, straight-through processing if you like. Even better, as well as creating the supplier record in the ERP, do it in the asset management system, and the purchasing system and anywhere else it needs to be. Do it right, touch it once, apply it everywhere – here are some other ideas.
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