An overlooked potential for improvements of the organization

Almost in every company, many everyday activities are unstructured and quite burdensome for all participants, although they engage a lot of people. Spreadsheets managed by e-mail, databases created ad hoc or improvised searches by phone: “who from the HR department can send me this form?" – take a lot of time, and often bring unnecessary confusion.

Employees go on business trips and settle them in Excel. The HR department records leaves of absence in its system, but an HR specialist must be always called to find out what leave entitlement is still available to an employee. The accounting department, from time to time, sends e-mails asking whether to pay a particular invoice, however the later restoration of such mail acceptance path is very difficult. A head of the IT department sees that his team has been already working very long on a new sales report, but he is not able to tell precisely how many hours were spent on it by individual persons since the general time recording system registers only the time of entering and leaving the office, and not specific tasks.

Of course, it works “somehow", and none of these individual events is able to stop the company… However, does “somehow" satisfy us?

With time, administrative processes organized in this way are executed in an increasingly bigger hurry, there is an overload of information and the productivity of employees decreases:

„I thought that Kwiatkowski would submit the offer tomorrow, but it turned out that he is on leave until the end of the week”.

“Nowak was to conduct training in Cracow, but his business trip was not approved”.

“We paid twice for the invoice for the same stay of Mr Smith in a hotel in Gdańsk”.

“Mrs. Kate from the accounting department is on maternity leave, who is now settling business trips?

Instead of carrying out their main tasks, team managers are trying to take control over the flood of e-mails, phone calls and their colleagues’ questions about daily routine affairs. The board has virtually no possibility of taking a systematic look at the whole administration in the company (how much time is spent by who on what type of employees’ requests). It is difficult to make rational decisions on increasing the support or possibilities to reduce costs in this area.

“We have just set up the Shared Services Center. This will solve all our problems, won’t it?”

Increasingly often, in order to reduce costs, companies centralize departments such as finance, human resources or customer service. When centralization affects the entire group of companies in a given country or even abroad, such organizations are referred to as shared service centers (SSC).

The idea of SSC is to reduce costs, for example, to enable a growing number of employees to be supported by the same number of administrative specialists. In practice, there may be adverse effects of such a change too, or at least they will be perceived as such by most employees. Now I can no longer come to “Mrs. Christie on the second floor" to find out how many days of annual leave are left for me to use this year, or to ask “Mr. Zbig from accounting” by a coffee machine (where I have been meeting him so far every morning) about approval of my invoice.

Without adequate support of processes executed in SSC by IT systems, the electronic correspondence circulating earlier in the company will change from a broad stream into a real flood. Employees will be frustrated that the “human" contact has been changed into support by an abstract center, in a remote location (perhaps even in another country). And the company’s actual costs will even rise if the administrative matters are handled slower and with more errors.

“We will deal with it some day, but now we have no time…”

Streamlining of processes and looking for savings is one of the favorite topics that the board of any company wants to hear about. Often, we implement new IT solutions to achieve just that. For example, an ERP system is to help you better understand the structure of production costs and to indicate places for improvement of profitability. A mobile application for corporate fleet drivers is to improve logistics. A CRM system should give a complete picture of our relationships with customers and their current needs so that offers turn into placed orders and contracts as soon as possible…

Most of the IT solutions implemented in the enterprise require the preparation of a detailed concept, long-term implementation and training of end users. They usually involve also costly licenses for each user and as a result, they are targeted to a small group of specialists (e.g. production planning, accounting, HR). These projects, of course, ultimately bring significant benefits (if they are implemented with reliable implementation partners or by the company’s own experienced team), but they are preceded by a long and costly project. As a result, the time from promises of benefits made ​​to the board to their achievement can range from a few months to over a year.

With such effort and cost put into streamlining of key processes bordering with the “outside world" (customers, partners, suppliers), often the improvements of administrative, “internal” matters are put on the back burner.

„…and besides, we are a mature organization that has already implemented many IT solutions”

Suppose that we have already implemented ERP, CRM systems and a mobile application that is connected with them and that indicates the optimal route of deliveries. These solutions are used by about half of all employees of our company (specialists from various departments) in total.

As previously mentioned, in each organization, there are regular routine administrative activities carried out, such as: settlement of business trips, filing and approving of leave requests, acceptance of purchasing and verification of invoices. These processes affect virtually 100% of the employees. Almost everyone at least once in the course of his employment can go on a business trip, and leave requests or purchase requisitions are submitted by all of us several times a year.

If we were to interview various employees of the organization what are their needs and ills associated with everyday tasks in the office, we would probably get answers similar to those:

Team manager:

I need the exact information who in my team is doing what today, this week and throughout the whole month.

I would like also to have current information on what costs are associated with the direct actions of my employees. Now I get such a report only once a month from the controlling department, and then it is too late to react. I have no access to direct reports from the ERP system, because the license is very expensive.

I also need information immediately when a request is awaiting my decision (e.g. acceptance of costs or approval of a business trip) for my team to act without delay. And at the same time, I am overwhelmed by e-mails and phone calls…

The solution: Schedule, Infobox

Sales department employee:

Every month I make the settlement of five business trips, eat a few lunches with clients and I order a lot of promotional materials. I also use a company car and I have to account for fuel.

Filling in all these sheets takes me the last weekend of every month, and in addition, I never know when I can expect a reimbursement of costs on my account. And when I arrange a meeting with a client in our office, there is never, as if out of spite, an available room and a projector.

The solution: Business trips, Purchase orders, Cars, Reservations

Accounting department specialist:

Employees always make mistakes when filling out business trip forms in Excel. They often send the same form twice by e-mail – I do not know whether in this way they want to get my attention and accelerate the settlement, or rather they deliberately try to get the double reimbursement of costs of the same trip…

The solution: Business trips

HR specialist:

Every day several people call to ask how many days of leave entitlement they can still take. And then, despite that, most of leave requests submitted at the end of the year already exceeds the entitlements, so  I have to clarify and correct them individually.

The solution: Leaves

IT department:

We already use the systems by five different companies, on four databases and three operating systems. Our employees use several hundred laptops, we also have a few dozen servers and other equipment. Where can I get the administrators to maintain all this?

The solution: IT licenses, Equipment

Company board:

We need to reduce costs of operation and improve efficiency.

We should carry out the same processes with a smaller team or enlarge the scale of operations without increasing the company’s administration.

Have we already mentioned the cost reduction?

The solution: BeeOffice

If we have already implemented advanced tools that support the basic operations of the company (production, distribution, sales …), but we do not support employees in their daily “minor" – but very numerous and repetitive – administrative and office matters, it can be compared to a Formula 1 team which has a perfect driver and the best engine in the bolide, but … has not changed the tires for three seasons.

And if we could imagine a perfect system for employees’ self-service?

Let’ s play a role of a demanding customer and prepare “a wish list" – what criteria would have to be fulfilled by the IT solution that meets all of the previously reported needs of various users in our company?

  • A simple clear layout of screens guiding the user through the steps of filling out application forms – without the need for training; context-sensitive help available within the system, with major guidelines (after all, no one needs a comprehensive manual for internet bank service or eBay auction …)
  • A form for each application (a leave of absence, a business trip, approval of expenses) includes a relevant set of fields that is required by law or which results from the specific nature of the company’s operations (e.g. a domestic business trip requires the start/end date and time to be specified, and a business trip abroad – additionally, the time of border crossing)
  • All that can be computed automatically by the system should be calculated without the need for manual data entry by employees (e.g. an amount and currency of a per diem result from the country of destination and duration of a business trip; an amount to be reimbursed to an employee in local currency results from the current exchange rate).
  • Where information has to be entered by the user (e.g. start and end dates of a business trip) the correctness of data should be checked automatically in order to minimize the risk of error or fraud (e.g. whether the business trip does not overlap with another business trip previously entered or with a leave of absence).
  • After completing each application form should be automatically sent to the person responsible for the next step of the process –  depending on the type of application and location of the employee in the organizational structure (e.g. a purchase requisition: a supervisor accepts the contents, then a chief financial officer accepts the budget, and at the end, an accounting department records the purchase in the ERP system), and information about the next task to perform should be at any time “at hand" (e.g. an e-mail notification about a change of the application status; a click on an appropriate link in the e-mail takes you to a list of tasks).
  • A history of the steps/operations performed and data changes should be made available to process participants. As a result, employees will not have to ask “Have my trips from last month been approved and can I already await a transfer to my account" – they can any time check what the current status and history of each application is. And when they have doubts as to “who has approved it?" they can immediately find out not only “who", but also “when" and “what" exactly has been approved.
  • The most important information for daily tasks should be available in the form of clear informationdashboards". The content of this presentation is adapted to the role of a specific person in the company (for example, each employee can see his/her available leave entitlement, while the manager can also view entitlements of all the people on the team).
  • The data collected in the system can be conveniently analyzed, used for better planning and decision making. For example, a business trip report showing the expenses of business trips broken down into teams, cities, projects or means of transport; a report on purchasing costs broken down into departments and categories of expenditure; a report on working time by individual projects/clients etc.
  • 24/7 access to the system, from any location with Internet access (at office, on a business trip, remotely from a mobile device). There is no need to install additional software for the user; a standard web browser is sufficient. It is the most convenient solution for end users, and simultaneously the IT department is not burdened with maintaining and updating the software versions.
  • The system grows as its use by the organization increases: easy addition of users, launching new standard functions in subsequent months, interfaces to other IT systems of the company, using new custom rules of data processing specific to the company.
    A flexible architecture of the solution and licensing model.

Such systems do exist

The administration is probably not the most spectacular area for ​​improvements (compared to the implementation of a new ERP or CRM system), but it is the effects of changes and savings here that can be noticed very quickly and for all employees.

The impact of the “consumer IT" world on corporate IT (mobile devices, a user interface in a web browser) is mentioned increasingly often. Who among us would not want to use the company’s systems with the same simplicity with which we make a bank transfer through the Internet or buy on eBay? In parallel, an increasing availability of solutions provided in the Software as a Service model (closely related to the concept of the so-called cloud computing) billed on the basis of a monthly or annual subscription, allows you to launch them within a very short time and with no investment in hardware, licenses or IT training.

Until recently, everybody has been writing and talking about such solutions, but very few organizations tried to use them in practice. Now they are available for businesses of all sizes thanks to products such as BeeOffice by the BCC (now All for One Poland).

Usually, savings of time and cost of the company’s operations are associated with the limitations of “pleasant" aspects of work, and with a greater number of tasks for each individual. In this article, we have demonstrated that the reverse situation can also occur! Modern self-service solutions supporting the daily work are appreciated by both individual employees, finance and HR professionals, and business managers. They save time of all these people, give an insight into current and accurate information, and ultimately reduce the cost of business.

Explore BeeOffice
BeeOffice, a solution by BCC (now All for One Poland), is an innovative employee self-service portal for companies of any size, enabling everyday savings of employees’ time and reduction of costs. This in-cloud solution allows you to select any combination of functions and modules. BeeOffice can be quickly launched, easily developed and smoothly integrated with HR and ERP systems. The solution is delivered and developed in the All for One Software Factory – a BCC’s competence center specializing in software development.