Did you jump too soon?

Why it often pays to think about the longer term and invest for the future

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With the growth in cloud technology in the accountancy and business world, we can automate so many manual processes and save so much time. Remember the days of manually posting invoices and taking backups of data on discs?

Today we are working in a technology-rich environment and we are benefiting in many ways. But what happens when things are not going as well as you hoped?

Little niggles!

It is not uncommon when speaking to business owners about their systems and processes for them to tell you what they are doing and reel off all the benefits they have as a result.

Then there is a ‘but’ at the end. This is where they tell you what it doesn’t do. Where there is something missing that is causing them problems and creating more work for the team.

There are lots of reasons why there could be some problems with the set up today, including:

  • new customers who require new information on their paperwork which was not needed before
  • changes in legislation so you have to report data in a different way
  • new team members who want to see data presented in another manner
  • growth of the business.

These ‘niggles’ are what they really want to fix because then their systems and workflows will be much more efficient and the problem will be resolved.

But what is the right way to go about making system changes?

What drives your digital adoption?

In the current world, the rise of technology means that we demand more from our systems. We want to see the benefits of the costs invested and the monthly subscriptions we are bearing so we ensure everything is speaking to each other and maximum benefits are attained.

Sometimes these little problems have been there for long periods of time and we have just worked around them, but often something triggers the business to address these issues at some point. This could be new staff, company expansion or new product offerings but, whatever the cause, the business wants to see what they can do to address it.

A ‘quick fix’ could be seen as the way to go as it is not too costly and it means that there are not too many changes to make. The team will not have to train in lots of new processes and the disruption is minimal.

Take for example a small company with a growing business which is currently on a cloud-based accountancy package. It operates one retail outlet and has eight employees. It has no systems in place for purchase orders and, instead, goods are bought without approvals and lots of different suppliers are used so there is a total lack of control over the whole process. Ideally, it would like there to be a system where purchase orders were approved by the relevant department heads and then a director too if they were high in value.

This issue could be resolved by implementing some new technology that allowed for approval and automation of the whole purchase order process. It is a relatively small area to fix, it could integrate with the current system and the overall cost would not be too large. There would be some new technology for the team to get trained on using and some new processes to put in place but, overall, the changes are minimal.

However, rather than jump in and fix these niggles, we should stop and think ahead.

A quick fix may make this problem go away, but what if there are bigger changes on the horizon?

Think big!

Rather than jumping in and quickly fixing one issue, it is advisable to stop and think longer term. Consider what the company plans are for the future and where it wants to get to in a few years’ time.

Many companies will have planned for growth and expansion into new markets, planned to grow the team or extend their product ranges. Whatever the plans, before we opt for the cheaper ‘quick fix’, we should think what these plans mean when it comes to the systems we are using. Will our current system and processes be fit for purpose in the future?

Go back to our example above and consider the plans for the business for the next 12 months. It currently has one retail outlet but over the next 12 months it will be opening eight more across the UK. It will have a significant increase in the number of staff and will also start to operate online and sell its goods via its website and Amazon.

The volume of transactions is going to increase significantly and it is unlikely that the current accounting software will be able to handle it and so a new system will be needed. This will be a significant change and will come at a significant cost but the difference here is this money will be a long-term investment.

Through looking ahead, the company has planned for the future and the time and money invested now will reap rewards down the line.

Compare this to the quick fix route. Here one small problem is resolved for a low cost but this is money wasted because a few months later this technology will be stripped out and replaced by a totally new system that fits the requirements of the company.

It pays to plan

It is all too common to see businesses opt for the quick, cheap fix. It removes a headache and often can be done quite quickly. However, this is both time and money wasted if a few months later there is a total overhaul of the system needed to fit the longer-term needs of the business.

So when it comes to addressing issues with systems it pays to plan ahead.

Think about the longer term and invest for the future.

The quick fix is only a stop gap. You want a long-term solution so think big!

Caroline Harridence – Counting Clouds