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Bridging The Gap Between - What Pre-Packaged Software Delivers And What Business Really Needs

John Howard
John Howard

We live in the ‘Information Age’, yet many businesses don’t have the information they need.
Others have it, but only at the cost of hours manually extracting and collating data.

Off the shelf software is more powerful and more affordable than ever, but is it rarely enough:

  • It’s often designed to run operations, not to provide reports
  • Standard reports may be too simple
  • If custom reports are available, they’re often overly complex to set up
  • The data you want is in different systems – which don’t integrate!

So, what are the options?

  • Tolerate the current software deficiencies?
  • Scrap existing software and start anew?
  • Be talked into Installing even more off the shelf business software?

Or contract a relatively inexpensive, custom designed, integration program that:

  • Extracts relevant data form all relevant existing programs
  • Formats the data into a totally integrated database
  • Loads, as required, strategy enabling text, numeric and illustrative reports.


Case Study: Accounting for Staff Time

Accounting for staff time accurately is a challenge. Staff may be on multiple different awards, pay rates or negotiated contracts. Hours and shifts often change from week to week or month to month. Plus many businesses need to charge clients based on the time different team members spend servicing their needs.

Getting it wrong can destroy morale and cripple business operations. Remember the Queensland Health payroll system which went live in 2010? Almost 78,000 staff were overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all. The cost? Over $1.2 billion dollars.

Smoothstream Business Intelligence helped a tax accounting business tackle similar issues.

Before the project began, the business used paper-based time sheets.

Each employee’s activity included a range of work types, at different rates, for a range of clients. Awards and payment rates also varied. Staff payments and client billing required re-entry of timesheet data and manual calculation. You can imagine the time these tasks chewed up each week.

The Smoothstream solution was built around automation of each process.

We began by developing electronic time sheets for each employee. We built in factors such as their award structures – to calculate payment - and a list of typical work tasks (e.g. ATO compliance, client meeting, administration, etc.).

We created a further programme to extract time sheet data, compile it by client and produce a report for download into invoices. The time to produce each client invoice dropped from hours to seconds.

Additional programme logic measured employee productivity. This unlocked yet more value for the company, which could identify and recognise high achievers. It also focused training and support where it was needed most.

What did this mean for the business?

  • One day a week reduction in admin
  • Minimised errors in data entry
  • Faster, more accurate invoicing, which led in turn to fewer client queries and prompter payment
  • Vastly improved staff engagement

Case Study: The Path to 17% Profit Growth

This Sydney home building supply company wanted to map out a business plan for growth. The management team wanted some clear answers:

  • Which were the best clients?
  • Which products were most profitable?
  • Which suburbs and regions delivered most business?
  • What house types offered most opportunity?

Unfortunately, their industry-specific off-the-shelf software wasn’t up to the job. The reporting was limited to standard financial reports, without the details they needed.

It’s a common problem with off-the-shelf software. It does a core job very well, but it’s designed for everyone, rather than for your specific questions. And if you have the same reporting as everyone else, it’s hard to get advantage out of that.

So the company called in Smoothstream.

Reporting within the original program was hard to change, but getting the data out wasn’t a problem. Once the data was available. Smoothstream could build reports to match company requirements exactly.

Management could compare clients by profitability as well as revenue. They could map out areas of metropolitan Sydney where business was growing. They could identify core products selling at good margin.

All this information was available in easy-to-read dashboards, which could be updated whenever needed.

Admin staff, who had previously been frustrated by an inflexible system, found themselves back in control. They were re-energised.

Management had the data they needed. They were now able to map out a business plan focused on specific house types, targeted suburbs and client profiles.

Benefits to the business

  • Armed with a clear plan, the company saw year-on-year profits increase by more than 17%.
  • Staff motivation increased too, driving further business success.

Case Study: From Data to Information

Too much data can be as hard to handle as too little. It’s a case of not seeing the wood for the trees – if you have too many reports and too many data points, you don’t know what’s really important.

Take for example the communication network installer which was getting massive amounts of data from its overseas parent.

The information related to payroll and invoicing across a multitude of countries and cities.

The data flow was complex. It included irrelevant information. Worst of all, it was incompatible with local systems.

The need to dissect and reformat the data meant that management were not receiving up to the minute information.

They were compromised by a ‘lag period’.

Our response was to create a customised program which extracted and presented the most essential information only. Prompt data processing enabled electronic control of payroll data, client invoices and costings.

The benefits transformed the company:

  • Managers could measure staff performance more effectively, then respond accordingly with training, recognition or redirection
  • Payroll errors dropped away
  • There was a dramatic decrease in invoicing queries
  • Five staff members were freed up from data reconciliation and reformatting to work in more productive and fulfilling roles.

“The goal is to turn data into information, and information into insight.”  - Carly Fiorina, former President and Chair of Hewlett-Packard Co.

If we have inspired you into seeing added information insights into your business then:
Book a no-obligation 30 minute discovery session.
Call 02 9871 4484, 0419 424 968

Published on by BiziNet

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