The Top 10 ways CFOs can do more with less – Part 2
By Jeff Robson
This article continues on from Part 1
Travelling around to different businesses, it seems that everyone is under pressure to reduce costs and improve productivity.
But how do you do this when everyone is already working really hard? They’re already too busy just getting all their work done to think about ways of improving it. The solution is to use technology better to generate new ways of improving productivity. So here is our view of the top 10 ways CFOs, accountants and finance staff can do more with less – part two.
6. Quotation and tender preparation
Problem: A lack of automation often means that producing quotes, tenders or bids requires a lot more time and effort than it should. The lack of a consistent, automated estimation methodology can also leave too much scope for variation in the quoting approach – and even if work is won, this can lead to the project being less profitable than it could be, or far worse – unprofitable
Solution: Automate your quotation or tendering processes. The tasks they involve are usually very repetitive and tend to follow a predetermined system. However, the process in most organisations usually involves too many manual steps. A system of rules can be captured and the power of Excel used to automate the process. This will potentially save a vast amount of time on every quotation or estimate, and will significantly mitigate the risk of inconsistencies in quoting methodology that can lead to costly errors.
7. Interactions with partner organisations
Problem: Mining and oil & gas companies in particular can spend significant time in collating, configuring and sending data to partners; and potentially also in receiving and reconfiguring externally-supplied data to make it useful.
Solution: Usually data formats don’t change too often. If data from an external party is coming in regularly, every week or month, and you find you’re spending a lot of time manipulating or reorganising this data:
- Take a look at your processes to find areas that can be improved through automation and better use of Excel.
- Ask your partners if they can change the way their data is supplied. They’re often happy to change to a data format that suits you better – but they won’t know what you want unless you tell them.
If you’re finding that you’re spending a lot of time sending out reports in particular formats, discuss this with your partners and see if you can’t agree on a standardised format.
8. Ad hoc reporting and analysis
Problem: Frequently, the tools used for ad hoc reporting and analysis are simply too difficult for the average user to understand – so they need support from appropriately-skilled IT staff.
Solution: If your end-user reporting tools require skilled IT staff to support them – then are they actually end-user reporting tools that are intuitive and easy to use?
If your end-users are struggling, they’re either not working with appropriate tools, or there is a training issue.
Talk to an expert consultant about reviewing your reporting and analysis tools to identify ways to make them faster, more efficient, and easier for users to both compile reports and analyse the outputs.
9. Payroll and timesheets
Problem: In companies that track time, there are often very significant opportunities to make the data collection, manipulation and analysis processes much more efficient:
- The way time is captured and recorded.
- Transfer of the information to payroll and the general ledger.
- Simplified calculation of bonuses, reporting and analysis.
Solution: Excel provides the power and flexibility to automate the capture and recording of time and expenses so that information is entered once and can then automatically flow into reports and other systems.
These functions are all prime candidates for automation:
- Re-keying of information.
- Spending hours manually manipulating data each week or month.
- Manually transferring data from one system to another.
10. Financial statement preparation
Problem: Whether it’s internal monthly management reports, Board packs, or the Annual Report – there are almost always a range of opportunities to improve the efficiency of the financial reporting process and save time, money and resources.
Solution: Reduce duplication, reduce manual processes like re-keying data, and use automation and integration to improve the preparation, presentation and distribution of financial statements.
There are a variety of ways to improve productivity and efficiency in a business:
- Reduce waste
- Eliminate duplication
- Improve processes through automation and re-organisation
All businesses need to be constantly focussed on improving their productivity and efficiency in order to maximise profits. In this article, we’ve identified many areas that most businesses can improve in.
Using Excel to assist in this provides a very cost-efficient way to achieve this because there are no additional license costs, minimal training requirements, plus solutions can be rapidly designed, implemented and adapted when required.
Of course, Excel is not an appropriate solution for every situation. Businesses also need to be able to recognise when it is time to go beyond Excel.
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