‘The digital age is upon us,’ has become a hoary cliché. Some have chased down every latest innovation. Others are slower to adapt. However all of us have been forced to change outmoded ways of doing things. There comes a point in the furious technological stampede where some of those feeling trampled are the very businesses for which these advances are trying to cater. Benefits have flowed but have we reached a position where what we take out of a company report is becoming an exercise mired in time-consuming study?
So when driven to cry out in anguish, ‘get me outa here’, is there a system that can be designed and tailored specifically for your enterprise delivering your business intel easily, analytically, on-message and with clarity? It’s the question bedevilling many businesses drowning in paperwork.
The answer is a resounding, ‘Yes, there is,’ according to John Howard, computer programmer and owner of Smoothstream.
Digital Automation of budgeting, compliance, taxation, business law and data entry, is driving the cost out of these, and other repeatable processes. A subsequent lowering of the industry standard time-based billing is the result.
Commentators, with considerable accountancy knowledge, offer numerous strategies on how to adapt to this sometimes impenetrable wave of change, and future proofing your business. However, all seem to agree that embracing current technologies and adding service offerings will be tantamount to survival.
John is adamant that one such added service would be to apply Business Intelligence algorithms alongside existing financial reports. He says that a properly designed program can extrapolate information highly pertinent to any business wanting to be conversant with its client base.
“Custom designed Extract, Transform, Load (ETL) programs, automatically distill relevant data from the financial reports, transform the data and load into raw data tables from which many styles of business KPIs can be reported in addition to just financial information.”
That means the enterprise can be just a click away from who is their best customer and what product or service is generating the optimum return.
The joy of Smoothstream’s Business Intelligence systems lies in their simplicity. They can be operated by unskilled workers thus delivering layers of sophistication and complexity at the touch of a button.
Accountants put out financial reports for clients but therein lies the opportunity to understand and track the progress of the business. Thus a bundle of figures on a balance sheet can provide a rich vein of information putting both the accountant and the business into the competitive centre.
More specifically, it’s a strategy for the facilitation and enablement of reports and dashboards such as:
• Clients categorised by descending Revenue and Profitability
• Products / Services categorised by descending Revenue and Profitability
• Quotation success by acceptance or change to revenue
• Geographic territories categorised by descending Revenue and Profitability
• Sales staff performance by descending Revenue and Profitability
• Client, Product / Services and Geographic trends over time
• Simplification or Summary of overly detailed or complex existing reports
• Automation of hitherto manual report compilation.
The attraction of the process is that such ETL programming could be performed either by appropriately trained in-house staff or outsourced to ETL/Business Intelligence experienced programmers.
“If outsourced then the programmer could work independently with your client, billing your company, and you bill the client. Or they can work with your client, representing your company name, and then billing your company that in turn bills the client. Alternatively, they can work directly on the programmers own behalf with your client paying your company a commission,” says John.
The benefits are clear. Such a value-driven service would enable a rebranding of the business, away from an eroded time-based billing to a negotiated advisory, value-based, service pricing.
John is convinced that far too few SMEs analyse their businesses to such a degree, despite the enormous value add that such reporting can provide. He cites the following actual case example.
Building Supply Company
Three financial reports, Sales by Client, Costs by Product, Quotation Values, downloaded monthly.
Senior level clerk attempted to manually extract and summarise the Client sales against product costs. This was abandoned due to excessive time, inaccuracies and costs.
A spreadsheet contractor was engaged, who unfortunately occasioned almost as much manual requirement as previously.
Smoothstream Business Intelligence was engaged on a ‘satisfaction or no charge basis’.
A fully automatic, repeatable program was furnished that delivered:
• Monthly tables and graphs categorising clients by Revenue, Profit and Quotation
• Results in a three level (A, B, C) grading.
• Monthly tables and graphs, three level categorising geographic revenue and profit source.
• Monthly source of revenue by Website,
• External Referral, Internal and external sales force.
• Time to produce all monthly reports (including source financial reports) – Less than 15 minutes!
• The simplicity of the program operation enabled the process to be conducted by a junior clerk, who, because she felt more engaged, withdrew a previously tendered resignation.
• Sales and Marketing efforts were refocused on up-selling A and B category clients.
• Low performing sales staff (2) were retrained and moved to more conducive territories.
• Non profitable territories were boundary changed.
First post-program financial year profit increased by 17.5 percent! As a bonus, in allowing staff access to some of the reporting, they became more engaged generating a commodious workplace environment.
John is quick to add that Smoothstream was paid in full by a happy client as well. Adding a service such as this creates new business opportunities for Accountants and Bookkeepers.
“We have found through experience that there is a clear need for more customised, client-centric systems,” says John.