How you can ‘Build Back Better’ in 2021
Set your business up for the new normal with Sage 300, Continuous Accounting, and Business Process Automation
If 2020 proved to be “The Year of Remote Working”, what can we expect from 2021?
With COVID-19 still raging in most of the world, it’s hard to face into the new year with unbridled optimism, but there are positive signs. The rollout of vaccines is ramping up, and governments (including a well-publicised incoming administration) are promising massive stimulus packages as they vow to “build back better”.
Preparing your business for the New Normal
Building back better could also be a useful mantra for business.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we are all more exposed to events beyond our control, and even beyond our imagination, than most had realized. We don’t know if the next calamity will come from disease, natural disaster, or political upheaval, but we can be sure it will come. How should we prepare?
Most businesses had to tighten their belts to survive 2020, but forward-thinking operators won’t be just reverting to the ‘old normal’ as the world comes tentatively out of hibernation. They’ll be looking to lock in efficiency improvements that can accelerate their short-term recovery, set them up for medium-term growth, and support their long-term resilience.
Let’s look at a couple of complementary concepts that might help you build back better. We’ll then suggest Orchid products that could be building blocks for your own rebuild.
The classic monthly, quarterly, and annual accounting cycles have their roots in the inherent limitations of manual, paper-based processes. The concept of continuous accounting starts with the recognition that today's modern businesses have almost universal access to impressive computing power and sophisticated, affordable software. This creates the enticing possibility of a fresh approach.
According to a current Wikipedia article, it embraces three main principles, summarized as:
- Automation: Automate mechanical, repetitive accounting processes in a continuous, end-to-end fashion.
- Optimization: Optimize the accounting calendar by distributing workloads over the accounting period.
- Culture: Establish a culture of continuous improvement in managing the accounting cycle.
A dedicated and diligent commitment to all three principles can create a virtuous cycle of ever-improving data integrity, less and less reliance on manual reconciliation and remediation, and ever-increasing efficiency gains.
Even if the theoretical end-state of totally batchless processing may not be realistically achievable to all, the benefits of starting down this path can still more than justify the effort.
Business Process Automation
Congratulations if you remember our 2017 article on this subject. To remind you, the term Business Process Automation (BPA) generally implies:
Taking a rigorous approach to auditing business processes, identifying and prioritizing candidates for automation, and putting in place an action plan to realize the benefits.
It's no coincidence that this definition of BPA overlaps with the principles of Continuous Accounting, given that the former is key to implementing the latter.
BPA, however, is a more generic concept that can be applied just as fruitfully to the streamlining of any recurring business process. We summarized the benefits as follows:
- Improved Productivity (more efficient use of resources through minimizing redundant or mundane tasks)
- Improved Service Delivery (more consistency, greater speed, fewer errors)
- Increased Transparency (improved visibility & compliance, speedier issue identification & escalation)
A recent business.com article called 6 Myths About Process Improvement is well worth a read. Many of the take-outs are very relevant to any discussion about BPA, e.g.:
- It’s not set and forget - it requires an ongoing commitment.
- It need not break the bank - there are low-cost software solutions available.
- Look for quick wins - plan, prioritize, and get started.
- Help is available – seek advice and support from your solution provider.
Let Orchid's Sage 300 Add-ons help you build back better
Have a browse of Orchid's full product range to see which other products might apply to your specific circumstances, but these are a great place to start when contemplating a Continuous Accounting or BPA regime on your Sage 300 site:
- Extender: Automate processes with workflows, alerts & notifications. Trigger Python scripts for bespoke automation and integration functions.
- Process Scheduler: Schedule your critical business processes to run automatically and unattended, including the execution of Extender scripts.
- EFT Processing: Move to paperless payments, fully integrated into your Sage 300 processes.
- Inter-Entity Suite: Supports Continuous Accounting by automatically keeping loan accounts in balance in real time, triggering additional transactions, and generating reciprocal documents when related entities trade.
- Info-Explorer: Affordable Business Intelligence forms the bedrock of your continuous improvement regime, plus integrated budgeting and forecasting to support Continuous Accounting.
- Optional Tables: Create custom data structures in your Sage 300 database. Maintain KPIs to support continuous improvement, and budget & forecast data to support Continuous Accounting.
- Return Material Authorizations: Consistent, structured processes for managing returns and repairs both increase efficiency and improve the customer experience.