For your business to grow and remain competitive in the market, it is vital that your systems are able to scale and grow with you, supporting and delivering your goals. Whether your business grows organically, through acquisition, or by moving into new or international markets, your business-critical software needs to be able to keep one step ahead.
However, even if you are happy your software can scale up, the configuration of your solution that is implemented in year 1, will often not meet your business needs in years 3-5. A planned program on investment in your business system is essential.
The increasingly rapid pace of change in the technology sector means it is no longer good enough to implement your solution and then forget about it for 5 years; this leaves your business at risk from competitor innovation, security issues and poor customer service.
Your key business processes, if optimised, can act as assets to your business and enablers of growth; however, if these key processes are operating sub-optimally, they can actually hinder your growth and ultimately, your business.
Lack of investment in your system starts to become apparent usually after 2 years and manifests itself in many ways, for example:
- Growth in transaction volumes and data from an increasing number of sources
- Duplication and/or re-keying of data between systems or processes
- Too many manual processes and a compelling need for streamlining
- The usage of spreadsheets is mushrooming
- Lack of integration between the core FMS and other systems is becoming costly and disruptive
- You are spending more time checking data quality and integrity and not enough time analysing
- Reporting cycle is getting longer and more protracted
- Auditors are asking more and more difficult questions
- Staff are working longer hours to cope with the workload
- There is a general feeling your finance management system is holding the business back
Even with all the pain and angst and cost caused by the types of issues listed above many people soldier on with an out of date system as upgrading or making improvements is often seen as time consuming, disruptive and costly. Which is why a planned program on investment with budget set aside is absolutely critical. So what might such an investment program include?
Regular Patch-set Updates
It is critical that your software is updated with the latest patch-sets from the software author, typically these include fixes for known issues, security updates and potentially new functions and features which may be of benefit if deployed. Most software authors release such updates at least once a quarter, some monthly. Good practice dictates that these be deployed in a Test environment and tested before being applied to the Live / Production. For most organisations a 6 monthly cadence of patching is usually sufficient.
Modern databases require very little in the way of regular maintenance, but it is advisable to have the application database checked as part of the overall system health check to ensure efficiency and integrity.
Skills and Training
Often a much-overlooked area, in the early stages when a system is implemented the then staff cohort will be trained in the efficient usage of the system centred round their business function. There will then be more senior users who are trained in the broader use of the system and some of the advanced functionality.
As time goes by the user population inevitably changes with staff leaving and joining, yet the knowledge transfer from a leaver to a joiner is probably 1-2 hours of handover. Overtime this knowledge attrition leads to underutilisation of the system, efficiency degrades, and frustration rises. It is therefore imperative staff are given proper training and given the opportunity to hone their skills in a Test environment with access to a paid for tutor.
Technical Review – overtime system efficiency can degrade, this can be down to a number of factors including the volume of data, loading on the infrastructure, network \ communication issue, database efficiency, proliferation of temporary tables and files, to name a few. Unless you have the in-house skills and expertise and know exactly where to look, its time to call in the experts. If you want your system to perform at an optimal level, then you need to engage with the people who do know how to do that.
Business \ Application Review – A system that was installed, configured, and implemented in year 1 to cater for the needs of the business in years 1 and 2 is highly likely not to be servicing the full needs of the business in year 3 and beyond. The chances are, the business has grown and changed shape and has much greater needs, yet the system is still as it was set-up 2 years ago and gaps are appearing. It is therefore imperative that you undertake a review every 2 years to identify the gaps and close them by implementing an upgrade or carrying out some re-engineering work or even introducing new modules or other applications.
Data Review – there is no doubt of the proliferation of data within a business, some might even describe it as a “data explosion”. Yet, buried in that data is hidden treasure and the key to running an intelligent and successful business. With a myriad of data sources in a business and gigabytes of data it is a question of organising it, normalising it and then capitalising upon it.
The above are just some examples of why we feel that having a planned and budgeted program of continued investment in your business systems is critical. It is no longer good enough or acceptable to implement and forget about it, your ERP or FMS has a symbiotic relationship with the business and will underpin and power its growth if looked after properly.
If you use SunSystems® as your financial management solution and if what you have read here resonates with you, then we can help, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.