Our two previous newsletters (January 2006 and February 2006) have dealt with the challenges in bringing together people, process and technology to improve business results. I illustrated these challenges using either myself or the firm as examples. In this month's newsletter, I will illustrate how specific challenges have moved our clients to pick up the phone and call.
Our clients call us when one or more of the following has affected them:
- Technology has grown creaky because information systems that once fit the business very well — sometimes, as recently as 5 to 7 years ago — are no longer nimble enough for today's needs.
- Processes are straining because of new or changed organizational structure or business conditions, or because of a sharp increase in volume.
- People are frustrated because the work volume has increased, or type of work has changed — and the process and technology no longer match their needs.
Some examples from our recent client work:
- This organization had "gone live" with their new industry-specific ERP package 3 months earlier — but their Controller was concerned because there were large differences between the detail and summary amounts in various Receivables accounts. The Controller called me:
"Todd, we're having some accounting system problems — do you have anyone who can help us?"
My reply: "Most likely, we do. It sounds like there's a combination of technology and process issues here. May I ask a few more questions to see if we can help you?"
We began this project within 2 weeks of that call.
- This insurance company had been told by their industry regulators that their operations and financial systems — which are from different software vendors — had to be integrated to enhance security, linking people and processes via technology. The company's Senior VP called me:
"Todd, I hear you're very experienced with financial systems integration — everyone I talk with tells me that you're the best company in the Triad to do this type of work."
I said, happily: "Well, I'd like to find out your sources and quote them! When would you like to meet to discuss your needs in more detail?"
We met the following week, and began helping this client within 10 days.
- This construction-related company needed to migrate off a large, costly mainframe operations system, while having outgrown their QuickBooks system for accounting and invoicing. Their CFO called me:
"Todd, we know we have to select a new business and accounting system, but we have some very unique requirements because of our two specialized lines of business."
My response: "We are well-versed in helping companies select systems that not only support unique business processes, but also matching your needs with the appropriate technology. Shall we meet early next week and let's go over your needs?"
We met with them, and began this engagement within 3 weeks.
Some other reasons that people may call us:
- "I constantly worry that my company's high growth will break my processes and systems."
- "We've outgrown QuickBooks, but I'm not sure how to go about finding what I need."
- "I run my financials by spreadsheet — this was fine early on, but this no longer works."
- "It takes my controller 3 full days every month to do a seemingly simple inventory analysis.
- "We just opened a second location, which has not just doubled — but it seems like tripled — our management issues."
- "My company's growth strategy is based on successfully expanding our product line — but, believe it or not, our product development process is handled via email. "
- "We've recently introduced new, more complex, products based on our core products — but my controller says we'll need a new costing tool to truly assess our product profitability."
- "My company recently bought a number BlackBerry devices from a wireless store, but I've already run into dead ends. Other BlackBerry users don't have these problems — can you help?"
When your technology and processes are well-aligned, your people are the real beneficiaries — no more struggling with outmoded processes and technology. Comments like these become common:
- "I can't believe we're already done with monthend — 3 days faster than before."
- "I now know the status of my business everyday."
- "I look forward to telling our industry regulators — and my peers — that we are most likely the best-integrated company in the state!"
When our clients call us — as over 100 clients have done for over 16 years and on more than 350 distinct projects — they want practical, timely, and focused thinking and actions, to bring desired results. The right things to think about and act upon — that's the benefit of working with an experienced and professional consulting firm.
Todd L. Herman
Client Project Update:
I am pleased to provide you with an update on our client projects. Projects we have completed over this period are...
Designed a Systems Interface
Designed and begun developing the systems interface between an industry-specific business system and a financial accounting system, allowing this insurance company to integrate these two systems, providing accounting integrity and enhanced management analysis.
Implemented X.509 Certificate Security
Implemented X.509 certificate security for secure Internet e-mail between key users of two companies, allowing our client and one of its major customers to securely share confidential and proprietary technical information and business plans.
Analyzed Requirements of a Value Statement System
Analyzed and outlined the requirements for an overhaul of a manufacturing company's value statement system, allowing the client to accurately associate the value added offshore with the appropriate cost classifications for reporting to US Customs.
Trained Professional Personnel
Trained the professional personnel of this investment management firm on advanced spreadsheet techniques, improving the efficiency of preparing client analyses and enhancing the integrity and reusability of their spreadsheets.
Reviewed Several Ledger Accounts
Reviewed several ledger accounts that were not aligned with the underlying business system for this university, identifying the nature of reconciling items and devising techniques to detect and address interface problems.
Future projects we are planning include...
Identifying Opportunities to Reduce Workload in Accounts Payable
Analyze the invoices processed by a large school system, identifying opportunities to reduce the workload of the Accounts Payable department, thereby freeing tax dollars for use in the classroom.
Retrieve Time & Billing System Information
Work with a multi-office law firm to retrieve their time and billing system information in several Lotus Notes applications, improving the efficiency and accuracy of their client service and administrative tasks.
Conduct Quick Start Project
Conduct a SQL Server Reporting Services quick start project for a packaging company, installing and configuring server-based components and providing training to help their technology staff quickly understand this report-building environment.
Reduce Inventory Holding
Automate an inventory analysis process from two separate business reporting systems utilizing SQL Server Integration Services and SQL Server Analysis Services, enabling this medical services company to reduce inventory holdings by more than 25% while maintaining the same high level of product availability.
System Enhancement Project
Manage the systems enhancement project for this construction-related company, translating business requirements into technical specifications that the software vendor can efficiently use to add new functionality to their product.
Review Accounting System
Review the accounting system setup, operating procedures, and administrative staffing for this automation systems company, recommending changes to allow the president to focus time and energy on growing the business.