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Archive for October, 2006

The Consultant Score Card

October 27, 2006 1 comment

A recent post on Mark Lee’s Blog, titled “Fees, fees, fees” brought up an interesting point about the focus on consulting firms focus on the holy grail of billable hours:

http://bookmarklee.wordpress.com/2006/10/17/78/

I recently heard of a company that uses a very ingenious method for rewarding its consultants for finishing a project. Typically, a consulting firm will focus on the number of dollars earned with professional services. A consultant would be given a bonus if they recorded an exceptional number of hours ($$$).

This firm used a customer-centric method for rating their service. Instead, they would give the customer a score card and ask them to rate the service and benefits of the project. The consultants would then get a bonus based upon the results from the score card. The customer would set the bonus – not the billable hours.

I like this approach because it creates an environment where the consultants focus on customer satisfaction – not just raking in the billable hours. Some consultants see a customer as a short-term opportunity to earn revenue. A score card approach shifts the focus towards creating long term, reoccurring customers. In the long run, this approach is far more beneficial for both the consultant and customer.

Categories: Articles

Keep it Simple

October 19, 2006 2 comments

Einstein once said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I take this idea to heart every time I analyze a problem. Be it a business solution, or a personal dilemma. Any creative creation can benefit from this idea.

For example, a fiction author does not submit his first draft to the publisher. Of course they revisit their work to ensure that their story is complete and consistent. An author also tries to edit their work to remove unnecessary content. They strive to remove any unneeded words that add length without enriching the story.

I believe this effect especially applies to workflow implementations.

Some people implement their workflow system as to mirror their existing day-to-day manual procedures. “We’ve been doing it this way for years”, they may say. This attitude may result in a deliverable that is bloated with unnecessary steps.

I’ve asked customers to create a step-by-step list of their current process. Several procedures include a useless step. A report may be printed – only to be immediately discarded. A data entry step that must be completed; however, the data is never used.

Part of this is due to a natural resistance to change. However, some workflow implementation may be improved by taking a different look at the process. For each activity ask yourself (or the customer), “what would happen if we skipped this step?”

Anyone can throw software (and money) at a problem and hope to streamline their process. However, don’t forget to take the time to look for ways to simplify your work day.

Categories: Articles

A Comprehensive Solution

October 13, 2006 1 comment

Today I attended a webinar given about Travel Expense Management (TEM) solutions. It was hosted by the people at PayStream Advisors. I generally pigeon-hole webinars into two categories. First, there are webinars that are truly helpful and provide valuable information. The second category includes webinars that are obvious sales pitches. I am happy to report that this event was full of useful information. There was only a small sales pitch at the end – which is perfectly acceptable.

What is Travel Expense Management?
A TEM system allows a company to automate the creation, approval and payment of employee travel expense reports. Why bother automating? Well, consider a large company with approximately 1,000 business travelers. They may generate about 60,000 expense reports a year. The average cost of manually processing an expense report is around $34 per document. Not to mention the turnaround may average three weeks.

A well designed TEM can save a company 60% in processing cost. Also, corporate policies are more easily enforced; thus reducing fraud and helping with SOX compliance. A typical TEM workflow may look something like this:
Example Travel Expense Management Workflow

Travel Expense Workflow
click for larger image

The top three reasons companies look for automated solution are:

  1. Employee Satisfaction
  2. Lower Processing Cost
  3. Faster Reimbursement

What is missing from most Travel Expense Management solutions?
A typical TEM is not a comprehensive solution. The approval process for expense reports is very similar to the approval process for direct invoices (often called non-PO invoices). The same managers need to review both types of documents. Why force your people to work with completely different systems? Or, worse rely on a costly paper-based process. A complete solution should allow users to process both invoices and expense reports. While we are at it, let’s include check requests, human resource documents, and every other piece of paper in your office!

There are several reasons that people choose a solution – total cost of ownership, time to implement, and ability to scale. I recommend that people consider solutions that handle more than just one problem. Look for solutions that are part of a larger, more comprehensive strategy that address all your information management needs. It will help you maximize your investment…and make your workday simpler.

Categories: Articles

Make the Paradigm Shift

October 7, 2006 2 comments

A lot of companies run their entire enterprise using what I like to call “old school tech”:  Sadly, all their mission critical data is found in spreadsheets, badly designed access databases, and of course mounds of paper documents.  Eventually these companies get the funding to implement enterprise systems.  However, they find if difficult to take the leap and make the paradigm shift.  They insist on mapping their original processes exactly into the new system.

The result is a system that works – but not as well as it should.

All of the workflow procedures become a linear sequence of steps.  The conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Tell me about this process.”

Them: “First we do this, then this, then this…”

Me: “How about we try to perform both these steps at the same time?  It might save a few days.”

Them: “No, no, no!  We’ve been doing it this way for years.”

Me: *sigh*

Often they don’t understand – or don’t want to hear – there is a better way.  Or they may be completely resistant to change.  For example, companies try to save by using electronic reports instead of printing thousands of pages.  However, some users will always immediately print a 500 page report as soon as they get access to it.

I think that all workflow installers should be trained counselors.  So that they may first help their customers overcome their fear of change.  Then they can start gathering requirements.

Categories: Articles