In any business, the ability to efficiently collect and analyse data is widely acknowledged as key to its success. But incredibly, the widespread use of spreadsheets for data manipulation and storage is alive and kicking. Reports are delivered with much effort and often collated from data that let’s face it, is old.
I took an enquiry recently from someone. How could they better manage their costs in a firm of 40 staff. She started by saying their team of 10 full time administration and accounts people, “do everything for us”.
Since many of our clients run at ratios of 10:1 or 8:1 billable to non-billable staff I was staggered to hear of a ratio of 3:1. Upon further discussion it became clear.
Every week a spreadsheet of jobs is emailed to staff. Each enters time into their copy and emails it back.
Someone rekeys the returned spreadsheets into the time billing system. It’s a well-known commercial system. But the invoices are also done (you guessed it) in spreadsheets! There’s one file per job per month.
These are keyed back into the time billing system to net off WIP and also rekeyed into the accounting system.
With 80+ invoices per month and templates everywhere, I was feeling really sorry for this caller. So I asked “Why are you rekeying so much data”. I then thought I’d blown it because she didn’t say anything.
Was I missing something? Maybe everyone was simply doing their best. Or was this business being taken for a ride by an admin manager who has built themselves an empire of busy bees.
While times were good, nobody took time to review the decisions nor the time being wasted, because it wasn’t perceived as an issue.
But the current economic forecast demands that we all review our cost structures. In businesses selling only their time and expertise,
The reality is in this business only two packages would be necessary to eliminate the time wasted rekeying data, a job management system, and an accounting system.
With minimal cross-over effort this business could have significantly streamlined processes, and reduce its costs as it may need to.
I asked her to imagine one single source of truth, eliminating a haphazard collection of reports that have to be pieced together to create something useful. I told her invoices could be going out the door faster, payroll could be driven directly from each employee’s timesheets and, without reducing the quality of the business critical information, the admin team could probably be cut in half.
Decisions based on manually collated data can become a heavy drag on the inner workings of any company – often costing valuable time and lost revenue. Therefore, it’s vital that the data you’re using to generate essential reports is easily obtained, based on a single source of truth.
The result will be significant time savings, a higher level of confidence in the reliability of the reports you’re reviewing, and information which in turn can lead to increased productivity and profitability.
How efficient are the systems your business is using?
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