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YOU’RE UP ON YOUR NUMBERS, BUT ARE YOU AHEAD OF THE GAME?

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In accountancy, as with any business, the skill level of your team is not always reflected in their productivity. You may have the brightest accountants and bookkeepers, but they’ll still be rushing at year end, pulling their hair out with frustration over your clients – why do some of your clients routinely ignore all of your requests for information? Or perhaps they make silly mistakes because of the time pressure which can be costly for your clients and catastrophic for your reputation.

So how can you help this? How can you harness the power of your team and become a well oiled accounting machine?

Does your team know what’s expected of them?

Your people systems and the way you manage your team is just as important as your ability to complete a set of accounts. We’ve worked with excellent accountants, helping them to improve their productivity and systemise their business. The problems are rarely around the skill set of their team, but around the culture of the business, the way the team are managed both by the Business Owner and the Managers within the firm, and the consistency with which they operate.

Do you have targets set within your business and are these enforced? As an example, do you have targets in place for the completion of X amount of tax returns each month, so that December and January aren’t the absolute worst months? How do you measure this?

How motivated are your team? Do you have regular performance reviews with them and listen to their thoughts and ideas for improvement?

Do your clients know what you expect when working with them? (Yes, it is ok to tell them!)

When you take on new clients, and meet with your current clients do you make it crystal clear when you need their information by? Do you explain to them in plain words how important to is and how much more organised and less stressful it will be to operate in advance? Do you have reminder emails, automations to run this?

Perhaps you could build into your teams’ targets – follow up on X amount of clients a week. You can create email templates that are ready to go which serve as reminders, and you can impose rewards for the clients who submit their information to you ahead of the deadline.

Imagine if you received all the information you needed 9, 10, 11 months ahead of the submission date, and that each of your team had a target of X amount of returns each month, with a view to finishing a month, or two months before  the crazy hits?

Do you have plans in place for achieving your deadlines and goals?

Say you wanted to increase your client base by 50% in 5 years. Ask yourself what would need to be in position in three years for this to be on track. Then in 12 months. And finally in 90 days. We call this 3-1-90 planning and it really works to drive and motivate towards achieving your goals.

So let’s get planning, here’s why:

1. Helps you to spot opportunities 
A consistent planning system, and planning calendar, forces you to step off the hamster wheel once in a while and get your head up. It gets you to review your progress to date – what’s worked well, what hasn’t, what lessons can be learned. It provides space and time to think – about what you want to happen, what might get in the way, how you can get round any obstacles. It opens you up to opportunities, that you might otherwise miss.

2. Brings individuals and teams together and breaks down silos 
All too often, specialist teams, or individuals within a business can get lost in their own little world, and not be able to see the value that others bring to the business, or the challenges others face to get things done. Regular planning creates the opportunity to bring people together from different areas of the business to review the way work is done from the customer’s perspective and make plans based on what is best for the whole business.

3. Creates a safe environment for new and creative ideas 
Meet ‘that’s not the way we do things round here’ – first cousin to, ‘we tried that before, and it didn’t work’ It’s this type of statement that will prevent the flow of ideas in your business, and even your best people will not put their creative heads above the parapet if they know they’ll be shot down in flames. Your planning system offers a structured way to talk openly about the challenges facing your business, and ask for new and creative solutions to overcome them.

4. Gives everyone the chance to contribute 
How motivating and exciting to be part of something that is growing and achieving success, thanks in part, to your contribution. Involve your team in your planning, and you involve them in your Vision for the future – you give them the opportunity to create it. How much more engaged do you think they will be? How much more ownership do you think they will take?

5. Exposes your blind spots 
We all have them. We can all be blind to our own strengths and weaknesses, to our innate prejudices, to other people’s talents and the value they add; and often we need others to shine a light on our blind spots. It’s the same in business – we all see things from our own view point, and benefit enormously from understanding how others see things. Planning gives us a framework for this.

6. Puts the customer first
Life planning puts you first. Business planning puts the customer first, and ensures that the focus is on what’s best for the customer, building trust and ensuring that everyone is focused on what really matters.

7. Keeps your products & services relevant 
It’s your customers who decide whether your products are relevant to them or not, and it’s your planning system that will ensure that you check in with them – that you look for more innovative and effective ways to meet their needs and satisfy their wants.

8. Builds a stronger management team 
Regular planning, focused on the business as a whole, brings the management team closer, and helps them to see the value – skills, experience and expertise – that they each bring. It’s also a great way of developing them, teaching them to focus on the end goal, and the strategies and tactics that will get you there.

9. Determines priorities 
Your planning system is a key element in your continuous improvement cycle: plan – implement – review – plan. You start the exercise looking at what’s possible, and by the end it’s all about results. You understand your long term goal and you’ve plotted your course to get there. Together you’ve agreed your priorities, you’ve decided on your 90 day goals, you have your action plan, you know your first step. It’s simple and it’s logical, and it’s all about getting the right things done.

10. Builds ownership and accountability 
Any effective plan assigns the who as well as the what, where, how and when. It gives everyone ownership for their own little piece of the business – their role, their goal, their action plan. Ownership and accountability are the key differentiators between a regular team, and a high performing team. Your plan will drive this.

Take time out to look in in your business and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.

Marianne Page, For more information, please visit https://www.mariannepage.co.uk/

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Business

Hidden channel costs: how to find and tackle them

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By Mark Wass, Strategic Sales Director, UK and North EMEA at CloudBlue 

 

Growth for businesses will always be a key objective. However, in this digital age, if it occurs too rapidly, it can often unearth cracks that harbor hidden costs and pre-existing efficiencies.

 When it comes to channel distribution, for the majority of partners, hidden costs are widespread. A lot of partners work with multiple channels and systems, and this can become complicated. It can also affect their ability to track information.  On average, 30%-40% of IT spending  in large enterprises is accountable to inefficiencies caused by shadow IT.

 There is no single root cause of hidden costs. An array of issues such as wasted resources, labour, time constraints, poor implementation oversights and maintenance issues are all contributors, and the cuts only get deeper as partners scale. Here are the ways service providers can eliminate hidden costs.

 

Where to look for hidden costs 

 In general, unaccounted, or unattributed costs originate from four areas, with the first being shadow IT.

 Shadow IT is the use of systems, devices, software, applications, or services without explicit IT department approval. The phenomenon has grown in recent years due to the adoption of cloud-based applications and services, with the average company using 30% more unique SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) apps than they were in 2018. Thanks to the ease of adding new software, departments are going it alone and buying platforms that can be niche, or duplicate processes, and even in some cases using multiple versions of chat apps to communicate internally. 

Mark Wass

The next hidden cost stems from implementation and integration. Channel partners need to work within different systems, and almost always underestimate the budget needed to work with new software solutions. A consistent blind spot across the industry is the inconsistency of implementation and integration at budget.   

In terms of maintenance, it is especially difficult when partners create homegrown software to handle provisioning, relationship management, or data management. While such proprietary software might perform well for initial purposes, maintenance and upgrades can be a nightmare. Likewise, internal knowledge transfer in this situation is crucial.  

And finally, the scalability of expanding from one market to the next is not linear and neither is the cost. Partners that have already launched in one part of the world often think that it will cost around the same to expand into another region, like between the US and Europe. However, this thinking does not consider the additional effort to contend with the new currency, language, audience, and regulation, as well as local operations within the region.  

 

Tackling hidden costs  

The good news is that there are multiple remedies to hidden costs. Integrations, for example, successfully bring together disparate systems and improve efficiency. Partners that have manual processes and pull information from one system before typing it into another are wasting time and resources by dedicating an entire person to this process. Clearly, this should be automated to cut down on human errors and save in the long run. 

Along with integrations, partners should purchase software with scalability and unification at heart. There is no magic platform that does everything entirely so companies should opt for the best of breed, even if the initial investment is a bit more. This will help to offset the concerns of scalability, maintenance, lack of expertise, and potential unforeseen overheads. Moreover, best-in-class platforms help to paint a consistent long-term picture of the health of channel operations. 

For channel health, it is also integral to integrate outside experts to perform an overall business diagnostic. These can be consultants, solution architects, and those alike that know channel software and best industry practices to help architect a scalable and efficient platform. Working in conjunction with the team, these objective outsiders work to find the gaps and tighten any software screws. 

 

Helping the channel by combating inefficiencies

Hidden costs can become widespread, and this can lead to channel partners paying up to twice the price for half the output.

 More than the financial downside, though, hidden costs should be thought of as hidden inefficiencies. Especially in today’s accelerated digital transformation, inefficiencies can make or break fast-growing channel operations. Therefore, weeding out hidden costs with improved efficiencies can work wonders by saving budget and running a tighter ship. 

 Integrated software and platforms can then be used for change. By unifying and standardising existing systems, managers receive a single view of contracts, reporting, sales, marketing, and day-to-day operations. This  provides them with the right tools to achieve sustainable growth. Rather than overwhelming teams with several types of platforms and software, this single operational view allows for the much-needed oversight that is necessary to set a business up for success. 

 It is essential for channel partners to seize the moment and eliminate the perils of hidden costs, especially given the rapid growth of businesses in the digital and cloud spaces.

 

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Business

Automation nation: Liberating workers from desks, data entry and the doldrums

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Gert-Jan Wijman, VP of EMEA at Celigo.

 

Just when businesses thought the tough times were over, even more challenges ensued. While still recovering from the financial effects of the pandemic, companies were hit with an economic downturn that’s now resulted in a recession in the UK.

In this economic context, teams are being forced to do more with less. This means onboarding with reduced manpower, delivering ground-breaking marketing campaigns with less budget and mitigating outlay in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Being nimble and streamlining operations has never been more imperative.

That’s where automation comes in. While automating before the recession would’ve been the ideal scenario, it’s never too late to get ahead of competitors. It’s only a matter of when – not if – automation becomes standardised, as businesses insistent on using legacy tech and manual processes will be outpaced by those savvy enough to embrace smarter alternatives. In fact, it’s predicted that in just two short years, 70% of large global enterprises will have over 70 hyperautomation initiatives.

For finance teams and the tech-strapped CFO in particular, automation can be a saving grace. Tech stacks are more complex than ever due to the proliferation of specialised finance SaaS applications for quote to cash, Accounts Receivable & Accounts Payable (AR / AP), cash management, tax, accounting close and corporate performance management. Having the tools to automate these processes enables modern CFOs to adapt to changing tech needs, scale quickly and future-proof their organisations.

Automating today to prepare for tomorrow

Too often, automation is viewed as a job killer. We’ve all heard the apocalyptic narratives about ‘robots taking over,’ but that’s an outdated notion. Instead, automation is a job enhancer. Not only does it minimise errors, speed up processes and help businesses cut down on admin, it liberates employees to dedicate their time to be more creative or perform complex tasks.

Take a company like WeTransfer, for example. Bogged down by manual processes, the team struggled with closing financial books and completing billing cycles on time. After integrating its tech stack, quote-to-cash automation worked immediately and the time to close reduced dramatically, significantly reducing the hours dedicated to manual data entry.

Its revenue accountant was then able to work on core tasks in the finance department and alongside sales operations on the process improvements, no longer worrying about completeness issues associated with the sales and financial systems integrations.

Not only that, it liberated employees physically and unlocked access to more valuable talents. Beneath all the technical and monetary benefits, these are the core principles behind why automation will soon become impossible for firms to ignore.

Physical Liberation

Hybrid work has been one of the biggest positive developments driven by the pandemic. However, while employees surely won’t miss long commute times or the constraints of office life, a disparate workforce comes with challenges. It’s vital that organisations can trust their data and business processes in order for effective collaboration to be possible.

Automation can enable this, as it allows cloud-based systems to share data across a business through integration, ensuring all workers have access to the resources they need to work together effectively wherever they are.

This makes businesses nimble, able to operate across multiple locations when needed and well equipped to decouple entirely from headquarters if needed. Workers can then be as effective from home as from the office, ensuring they can maintain a better work-life balance without compromising productivity.

It’s no wonder then that 78% of organisations worldwide think remote working will increase the proportion of their workforce using automation, while over two-thirds (71%) that have already implemented automation are beginning to feel the benefits.

Liberating Talent

Automation also ensures talent is no longer wasted on manual tasks. 3 in 5 (60%) occupations could technically automate more than 30% of their tasks, highlighting the bevy of possibilities and offering a glimpse at the future of work.

When workers spend their time crunching numbers and organising spreadsheets, it’s easy for them to feel like a cog in a machine. With automation, however, they have more room to share their ideas and feel connected to the operations of the business.

With menial tasks taken out of their hands, employees are freed up to perform more complicated and creative jobs, the sorts of work that could never be automated. And by filling workers’ days with more of these engaging responsibilities, they’re able to feel like they have a real stake in the company’s success.

There is also research to suggest that workers can get as many as 100 hours a year back as a result of their manual tasks being automated, meaning everyone could get an extra two weeks of paid leave without productivity taking a hit.

Automating into the future

Already, over 80% of organisations self-report increased or continued investment into hyperautomation initiatives. So the appetite is there, now comes making it a reality.

Automation at scale is the dream, but the transition won’t happen overnight. In a perfect world, organisations will be able to assign all manual and tedious tasks to the machines, with employees only needing to provide oversight when necessary, but there’s a journey to get there.

That’s why it’s critical that CFOs collaborate closely with their CIOs. Only then can we realise a scenario where manual processes are eliminated entirely, and data across systems can be accessed and updated in real-time. But this will require leaders to understand each other’s needs and challenges so they can align their visions.

As organisations become more disparate, this partnership will only grow in importance. CIOs can empower the CFO and their teams to implement the automation initiatives best for them, with IT maintaining oversight to ensure compliance.

With the right structure and mindset, CFOs and the entire C-Suite can be encouraged to pursue digital transformation in a way that’s most effective for them and the entire organization.

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