Finance on the Move – An Opportunity to Boost Productivity and Profit
By 2011, almost a third of the working population will be relying on mobile communications to do their job and according to analyst IDC more than 50% of employees will be on the move as part of their roles. There’s no doubt that the popularity and acceptance of concepts such as mobile and flexible working are increasing. In turn this makes it even more critical to ensure that personnel that spend time out of the office or even work from home can still gain easy access to financial information.
Here’s an idea of the type of benefits companies can expect from ‘mobile accounting’ and how you can prepare your business to support finance on the move.
24/7 access to real-time financial information – Senior management and/or budget holders can check strategic or latest figures at any time or location:
- Faster quotes – Field workers including sales personnel can compile quotes or access price lists without having to return to the office.
- Quicker and more accurate billing – Remote or mobile workers can input their expenses and/or time-sheets on-line, so that invoices can be prepared sooner and include ALL costs.
- Better customer service – Staff can respond quicker to sales enquiries and other finance-related queries without having to wait until they are back in the office.
- Lower office costs – Through hot-desking and home-based working, companies can save substantially on space and still ensure that both finance and non-finance staff can access all the accounting data and/or documentation they need to do their job.
- Take advantage of virtual FDs – Many companies might not find it cost-effective to have a full time Financial Director, but by enabling full access to the accounting system remotely, you can take advantage of the services of a part-time finance professional. The FD Centre (www.thefdcentre.co.uk) for example offer this type of service.
To give roaming users the same access to financial information as their office counterparts you will obviously need the standard IT infrastructure required for remote access to a central network such as a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and the availability of high speed broadband services. But in order for staff to really optimise productivity, then you should consider an accounting system that is capable of supporting the following:
- Automated e-mail alerts – Electronic Authorisation of various financial procedures such as approving purchase orders or invoices can be sent as email alerts that can be tracked via email either on a Blackberry, laptop or home-based PC.
- Paperless accounting – For mobile workers who have limited or occasional contact with a central office, it is difficult for them to access paper-based material, so a system that can scan and retrieve original documents such as invoices, statements and so on is necessary so that everything can be found on-line regardless of location.
- Devolved accounting – By devolving some key finance tasks such as creating POs and managing budgets, you can save considerable man-hours in re-keying information. Instead if you give greater power to non-finance staff via on-line access, they can help themselves to information and become empowered rather than burden the finance department which can often become a bottleneck.
- Automated and personalised reporting – Many finance departments still spend hours collating and printing out reports for numerous recipients. With electronic, pre-scheduled reporting facilities these can be emailed and even remote workers can read them regardless of their location.
- Browser-based system – Using an accounting platform that can be accessed via a standard web browser means that as long as the user has an internet connection they can view it. It also means that you don’t have to install client software on a PC which reduces storage space and the IT costs of installation and on-going maintenance.
- A portal-based system gives each user a personalised view of the accounts system so they are given key, ‘at a glance’ information such as ‘task lists’, ‘reminders’, or ‘latest sales forecasts’, rather than having to drill down into the depths of the accounting system which may not always be practical when you’re working remotely. This is a powerful tool for senior executives that want the most up to date information but in a palatable, easy to view format so they can act promptly.
With pundits now predicting a bounce back in the economy within the next six months, the ability for key staff to quickly access the latest financial information may just give you the knowledge that allows you to jump ahead of your competitors.
Simon Kearsley is CEO and co-founder of accounting software vendor bluQube (www.bluQube.co.uk)