Can You Do More in Less Time? Ask me Again @ the End of 2016

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The Issue
According to recent research in the US, which was published in cfo.com in December 2015 and March 2016, companies spent 13% to 16% of their available finance function time on Management Activities. About half of that total time was spent on Transaction Processing, with the balance after deduction of management activities, being on Control and Decision Support. Additionally, if you expressed as a percentage the total cost of the finance function over revenue, then the total cost of finance ranged, in aggregate, from 0.57% to 2.13% with wide variations discovered within an industry sector, all pointing towards process inefficiencies.

The Opportunity
Fighting for every basis point of profit in business can be a monumental task and if the research above, from a large number of companies, is indicative of potential savings, then for sure anything that gives traction in gaining efficiencies will have an impact on the bottom line. Arguably, however, there is a lot more potential value locked into the main daily operational processes that can be unleashed with better resource allocations.

Why Has Software Design Been Able to Change
A combination of factors have come together that allows end-users to leverage their domain expertise and to define partially or fully automated processes. These start from data collection, through all process flows to reporting including the ability to undertake complex Business Simulations and to generate Contextual Actionable Alerts or Workflows. This is made possible by the software being written for 64 Bit and being also optimised to leverage the parallel computing capability of the multiple cores and threads of today’s mobile and desktop processors. This coupled with latest compression technologies, and the optimisation of software for management accounting, means that even the most complex processes or tasks can be achieved in a single step, meaning rapid execution and greater efficiency including those that include data transformation from sub systems.

Complex Processes and Complex Tasks
Complex processes like Budgets & Forecasts are always a challenge taking months to conclude with multiple iterations across all business units. Normally completed sometime in Q4 they are often rarely finalised until Q1 and are referred to, in original or modified form, throughout the year. Processes are repeated, are never detailed enough meaning that time is spent trying to figure out how a particular number was calculated in the first place. Complex tasks normally are specific, complex, repetitive and time consuming to execute, requiring multi step processes that often include extensive and specific spreadsheet designs where knowledge can be lost on a staff member leaving.

Do You Need Real Time Systems
Whilst we all understand, at a holistic level, that real time systems are desirable they are currently viewed as unrealistic. Most companies are actually tackling a very narrow prioritised list of processes to add value to their business. They will eventually get towards real time and this activity will accelerate as additional incremental time is released through the removing of frictional processes. Bottlenecks are in fact an inherited legacy with the required data for a specific task being somewhere in the various sub systems. Simply put, technology has only just reached a point in the last 12 months to effectively and practically reduce friction at a reasonable cost.

What Can be Achieved Now
With latest technologies end users can now define processes from data collection, thru all required business flows to reporting with any required user interaction or segregation of duty. Selected highlights:-
● Some processes or tasks require data to be collected from operations. These can now take the shape of a smart form that renders, with a zero footprint based on a user’s function. This means that forms only contain required fields. Less errors and a better UX.
● Processes that require data submissions from multiple subsidiaries are labour intensive. Now software robots can detect for non-submission, and auto chase by starting a relevant workflow. They can also undertake simple or complex checks ie is b/f = c/f from last month or is profit in the required range for a budget submission and accept or reject based on the situation.
● During any process flows, ranked results can be shown at regular intervals to show the top XX or bottom XX products and/or contextual alerts started depending on the result of what is being tested.ie potential stock outs, slow moving stocks etc.
● Progress bars for longer processes (financial close ) can show you what the system is doing at any time, regardless of device, so that you can always see progress rather than an apparent inactive screen.
● Latest technologies drive results through high performance. Results can be seen close to real time meaning more time can be spent on management in assessing specific situations.
● Business Simulations allow you to quickly test and rank millions and millions of combinations of potential resource allocations to drive cost efficiencies by assessing multiple factors simultaneously.
● Processes can be collaboratively reviewed, step by step, for continual improvement. New staff can quickly be productive and when staff leave process knowledge is retained and not lost.

On-Line, Off-Line, Centralised , De-Centralised
The UX capability means that systems are smart, scalable and can be deployed to any device as required for the process in hand. Processes can be totally or partially automated and are granular, allowing the user to define the process that works for them, even if it goes across multiple sub-systems and personnel. A useful feature for internal audit is the ability, with granular security control, to file copy, so fast, relevant data from a subsidiary to give oversight or to leverage robots for contextual results.

Leverage Existing Systems
When we look back over time we can see that business systems have improved incrementally and whist friction has been reduced it is still a major issue, as required data is often a subset of recorded data and exists in multiple locations. Bringing data together and transforming it as required for ad hoc or planned reporting is troublesome due to massive volumes, data formats and computational requirements. This new generation of solution leverages your existing systems to enhance planned, ad hoc, or event driven reporting for decision support, resource optimisation and segmental reporting.

Will You See the Difference
Absolutely as you will:-
● Save time through automation so that processes are more accurate with less errors (smart forms) are repeatable, auditable and fast.
● Be able to annotate generated entries with meaningful descriptions which are useful for subsequent reviews.
● Be able to leverage software robots to work at any stage of the process to drive contextual reports or workflows.
● Deliver month end reports pre- analysed with contextual information with ranked variances, noting that contextual attachments and/or workflows can be generated as required depending on results. Possible errors can be highlighted on the screen for required users but will not be shown on reports,
● Define processes that can be totally automatic, require one button or be partially automated. Brings relevant data from sub-systems to one page for decision support, resource optimisation and reporting.
● Drive proactive not reactive management.
● Perform Business Simulations allowing you to test processes quickly or gain insights for resource optimisation.

So when asked again at the end of 2016 “Do you work for your system or does your system work for you” your reply could be very different.

What Makes An ERP Software Great

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Buying an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software that fits your company’s needs is complex and confusing. With hundreds of ERP software on the market, it’s easy to fall into analysis paralysis.

There is no reason to get to that point, if you can figure out a few key points that make good ERP software. But before you do that, you need to first assess your company’s needs. Are you needing an ERP system for human resources, accounting, manufacturing, inventory management, or all these things combined? This determines whether you need a standalone system or an integrated suite of tools.

What type of buyer you are also plays a role. If you’re a small business owner with less than 50 employees, you might be hesitant in investing in an ERP system because of high upfront costs. But in the recent years, cloud technology has carved out some new opportunities for small business owners, offering lower costs and less technical challenges. If you’re an enterprise-level buyer, you probably need to have a system for multiple departments, leaning towards an all-in-one system.

When evaluating potential ERP solutions for your company, you want to keep in mind the following traits:

1. Intuitive

Software is only as good as people using it. In other words, if people have trouble using it because it’s not user-friendly and intuitive, it should be considered not good. Even though ERP systems can be big depending in the size of the company, the concept shouldn’t be complicated. At the same time, there should be a degree of control and ability to customize.

2. Mobile-Friendly

Years ago, it was inconceivable that an entire computer system could fit into your pocket. The reality is vastly different now, with smartphones and tablets exceeding desktop usage. The same reality is happening for ERP solutions.

A good ERP system keeps up with this trend and is mobile-friendly. Mobile-friendly ERP software boosts productivity and is flexible, especially with more of the workforce telecommuting or being offsite. It allows valuable information available even if people using it aren’t in office.

3. Good Customer Service

Superior ERP software offers the same level of customer service, support, and maintenance. Training is essential until everyone assigned to use the system can be brought up to speed. If there is no in-house expert, implementing a new ERP solution will take time and effort by the manufacturer; so good customer service is crucial. This is also important because many vendors often consolidate, which means support and the system itself can be phased out overtime.

You have many options when evaluating a solution for ERP in Hong Kong for your company. You can also go with the software as a service (SaaS) route. The initial cost is lower, it runs on a web browser so everyone is familiar with it, and you don’t need a full-time IT professional to maintain it.

When all the stars are aligned and you find a system that’s intuitive, easy to use, flexible, mobile-friendly, with good customer service, it’s much easier to streamline your operation.

4 Reasons to Use a HRMS System

The human resources department is probably the bread and butter of most organizations. Finding and hiring the right people is crucial to an organization’s success. Companies spend millions of dollars hiring, onboarding, and training employees. This requires the HR department to be hyper-organized.

Cue human resources management system (HRMS).

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There is a HR system available to suit every budget and organization capacity, so there is really no excuse for companies to not invest in one. But there are still many companies that hold off on using a HRMS system, because of one reason or another: upfront expense, training to use it, etc.

If you’re still reluctant to invest in a system for HRMS in Hong Kong, here are the reasons you should consider one:

1. Hiring

Everything starts with hiring the right person. A HRMS system allows one central place for job postings, tracking CVs, scheduling interviews, recording interview results, processing new hire paperwork, and every other conceivable task related to hiring resources. This is convenient, saves a lot of time, and makes sure everything is neatly organized in one place.

2. Increased Productivity

HR department is typically more than just the human resources. Sometimes they act as payroll or general record keeping. HRMS systems allow your business to outsource these parts of the HR department so they can focus just on managing people and training employees.

3. Employee Management

Any accolades, praises, and compliments for specific employees can be recorded in a HRMS. This is handy when annual evaluation comes around. If you’re a manager and you want to express your thanks to your star employees, having a copy of your thank-you letter can be placed into an employee’s “file.” In this case, it’s not a physical file but a HRMS.

Laying off or firing someone is never a decision taken lightly, but it’s often necessary to keep a smooth operation. A dark side of employee management is keeping track of who to let go when the time comes. HRMS software lets you document all the grievances, so in case there’s a chance of litigation, you have an electronic “paper trail” to back you up.

4. Reduce Errors

Payroll errors can be costly. A HRMS system can help you dodge those errors. It does a better job of Excel spreadsheet or any accounting book. It can also automate payroll and increase efficiencies.

In the past, companies were reluctant to invest in a HRMS system due to high cost. With improved HRMS technology like cloud HR software, upfront costs are getting lesser and lesser. Cloud technology also makes it easier to replace the HRMS system if you don’t like it, since it’s not as highly customized and proprietary as the traditional option.

Despite all the talks of outsourcing and robots replacing potential jobs, human resources remain the most crucial and central part of any organization. Employees drive companies. To hire the right ones, there needs to be a right system to keep all the info. That’s the purpose of having an HRMS system.

How to make sure your Accounting System Hong Kong is secure?

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When running a Business we have particular software systems that store extremely important information. Putting the entire business into accounting software can set off red signals regarding security. After all, your bank account details, pricing and revenues along with supplier and employee details are all saved in the software. Any leak simply indicates that your entire business processes and private and confidential information may be jeopardized.

Thankfully accounting management software has inbuilt security to safeguard your data against malicious attacks. Let’s have a detailed look on what these measures are and how they protect your data:

Personnel and Location Based Security

If the accounting system you use is a pure service, the data will have to be stored on off-site servers. The accounting software firm will ensure safety of data by limiting access to certain authorized employees only, and creating authorization standards: password protection or dual approvals for server access.

A quick way to judge security is the attitude of the staff who you deal with. How do they input the data, how meticulous they are in the storage of physical and soft files, and who do they allow access to the data?

Natural Disaster Protection

When working on security plans, we tend to overlook protection against the natural disasters our area may be prone to like fires, tornadoes, or earthquakes. In the case of data storage servers being located in the same area as your workplace, there is a high chance of total data wipe out. So, during the selection of service providers, ensure that you select one that offers off location server storage.

Data Transfer Encryption

Ask your service provider about what encryption services they use and how they ensure security during transfer of data. This will not only allow you to know the procedures used to safeguard data when at storage but also during the transfer of data from one storage point to another.

Authentication

The most common causes of security breach happen due to unauthorized access. This access may be internal in the company or external from attackers. However, there are numerous protection methods that can help you solve this problem. The most common protection method is authentication – from setting up an email password with its numerous requirements to an automatically expiring password, there are many forms of authentication you can choose from.

Regulatory Requirements 

Take the assistance of your government and only hire accounting system providers that meet the regulatory requirements. To do this, it is equally essential to know about the requirements for cloud based storage, off-site storage, capital investments and board of directors amongst others beforehand. By focusing on these requirements, you can ensure that you have used the basic selection criteria for a reliable accounting firm and reliable accounting management software.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Outsourcing an ERP System

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An integrated ERP solution can do wonders for a company’s efficiency and effectiveness. The advantages of having a cohesive ERP software that handles all the business processes is a goal worthy of time, effort, and the financial resources allocated to it. But the process of selecting the proper enterprise software and implementing it can be a nightmare if done without due regard to the complexities involved.

ERP systems must be a good fit for the company’s requirements. There are a myriad of factors to consider when outsourcing your ERP solutions. Otherwise, disasters such as total failure and wasted man-hours will occur. Here are the major five mistakes that must be avoided and the solutions that will help you create and implement a feasible ERP strategy.

1. Inadequate Planning and Low Level of Support from Top Stakeholders

Poor planning will almost guarantee that your ERP solution fails. Take time to assess the costs and benefits. Also, try to determine how much the ERP software will impact the organization once it has been deployed. The planning must cover all phases of the project, i.e. from requirement analysis to deployment and maintenance. Any phase that is poorly planned will affect the project negatively. So, it is necessary to determine the specifics of scope, complexity, and size of the project.
Ensure that the key stakeholders, (the top management of the company such as CEO and the CTO) are on board for the ERP implementation process and are fully committed to the project from the beginning to end. Detailed documentation of every step is also crucial.

2. Poor Change Management Preparation and Inefficient Training

Employees will be most affected by the implementation of ERP system. If inefficient training about the new business process is provided to them, it may lead to job dissatisfaction and high employee turnover ratio.
Since ERP implementation will entail major changes across the organization, handling this enterprise-wide change has to be done according to a pre-set plan. So, the ERP team has to make sure that the solution fits well into the corporate culture and the affected businesses process is transitioned over properly. Though employees may resist this change in the beginning as they are used to performing their tasks in traditional ways, proper training programs will ensure that the employees realize the benefits of the software solution and learn how to use it effectively.

3. Selecting the Wrong ERP Solution that Misaligns with Business Processes

Companies often fail to identify the needs that the ERP solution has to address. This can lead to problems as big as choosing the wrong ERP vendor or failing to incorporate the ERP solution into the organization’s business processes. Though these are worst-case scenarios, even if the solution is misaligned with a few levels of organizational structure, the effects may turn into bigger problems in the future. This leads to loss of time and productivity that end up making the stakeholders question the wisdom of such a costly project.
The decision for deploying enterprise software should be objective and the features offered by the vendor must match your business requirements.

4. Failing to Estimate Resource Usage and Misallocation of Resources

ERP systems are complex as they require a lot of steps to be implemented successfully. However, changes are rolled out slowly. As the changes are made, the new processes are also being tested to see that they perform up to the mark and as expected. If you assume that the vendor will take care of all these steps, you are mistaken. Vendors are experts in their respective fields but they require detailed information and feedback from the organization while they work on implementing the chosen ERP systems. Therefore, your company is responsible to allocate the required resources that are involved in the process. The right resource allocated to the right task at the right time will make all the difference.

5. Considering That ERP is a Simple IT Project

Assuming that implementing ERP solution is just another easy-to-handle IT project is a mistake which can cost a lot to even the largest organizations. Making this mistake in the form of negligence while implementing crucial steps of ERP may result in wastage of time and other valuable resources.
So, if you are investing in an ERP solution, you should carefully review your business plans and ensure that these deadly mistakes do not cause any failure to your business objectives.

5 Signs Your Business is ready for an ERP System

As you expand your business, you will inevitably experience some growing pains but the transition into a professionally run company can be a lot smoother if you know when it’s time to update your software
As a company grows, you undergo several stages of development and several stages of formalising your business processes. From payroll and accounts to IT systems and marketing, you add the relevant processes to your operations and learn as you go along. For small companies, it is inevitable that these process will be separate and disjointed – you can only do what you can at the time. When companies reach a certain size in terms of profitability and/or number of employees, a reactive approach to adapting to the changing nature of your business is insufficient. There will come a time when you need a comprehensive top-down approach to your operations and strategy. This is when you need to implement an Enterprise Resource Planning system (ERP).

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What is ERP?
ERP is a kind of software that allows for the integration of various different business processes including human resources, accounting, marketing and IT. It allows businesses to have a cohesive approach to their business operations instead of running different software programs for different parts of the business. It often saves money, time and allows for a greater top down view of the business. Here are the tell-tale warning signs that you need to adopt an ERP solution:

Your IT is becoming unmanageable

If your IT system is constantly experiencing problems, from the website and email servers to remote working, then you may be in need of ERP software. If your IT technicians are constantly putting out fires, then you definitely need ERP software. It could be time to stop solving problems by adding another layer of software and start afresh.

You don’t have direct access to information about your business

If you find yourself unable to easily access past sales figures, client buying habits and profit margins, then your systems are inadequate. ERP solutions can collate all this data and present it to you ready for straightforward analysis.

Accounting is unnecessarily difficult

Accounting is never easy but it is not that complicated either. If you are battling with paper invoices and several spreadsheets, you need to find a better way. Outdated accounting software designed for smaller businesses will slow your accounting team down.

You never know exactly how much stock you have

ERP software tells you exactly how much inventory you have at any given time. Without adequate stock keeping, client orders will be late or unfilled. This when the complaints start piling up. ERP software allows you to effectively manage your stock so that you have exactly the right amount at any given time, all according to your specific client requirements.

Different departments are using different software

This is standard for growing companies but once you are at the level where you are using professional software to manage your processes, you should be looking to adopt an integrated ERP solution to bring it all together.

The bottom line is that when simple processes become unnecessarily complicated and time consuming, you should consider upscaling your process management. The benefits of an ERP solution are huge – it can allow for smooth and efficient operations as well a top down view of your business that allows you to develop strategies for the future instead of constantly reacting to problems.

 

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