Finance processes best suited for cognitive tools

As the finance function comes under increasing pressure to shrink costs, support growth and provide business insights, there is enormous potential for cognitive automation to support CFOs and finance directors in informing strategy and making suggestions in real-time.

Cognitive automation gives organisations a competitive advantage by meeting the key challenges today’s finance function faces. Here’s how:

  • It radically improves cost efficiency
  • It helps Finance remain in control of a constantly changing environment
  • It allows Finance to focus skilled resource on driving value creation for the business.

Implementing intelligent technologies allows CFOs and finance directors to easily ask questions of their data analytics to make educated decisions with confidence. But how can CFOs ensure they are implementing cognitive automation so it delivers economic success? The best results can be achieved when artificial intelligence is applied to the right processes. Finance can take full advantage of automation by allowing cognitive technology to…

  • Take the guesswork out of sales forecasts. A missed forecast can lead to low employee morale, potential job losses, weaken shareholder value and ultimately compromise the success of a company. Cognitive automation enables finance teams to make more precise predictions by collating accurate revenue forecasts in real-time to paint a clear picture of a company’s financial data.
  • Simplify invoicing. Matching incoming payments with invoices has long been a frustration for accounting teams – spending valuable time tracking down missing information and who’s paying for what. However, cognitive automation can combat this persistent headache by reading documents and searching for relevant and missing information to match payments with invoices, freeing up employees to spend time on higher-value tasks.
  • Help CFOs answer more questions in boardroom. Finance teams often say they are drowning in data but starving for information. When the board is asking questions like: “How do you plan to grow the company?” “What’s holding growth back?” “Are there any uncertainties facing the business?” and “What are the greatest areas of spend and return?” making sense of the data to answer these business-critical questions is often hopeless. Cognitive automation can solve this dilemma by turning the tsunami of data into meaningful answers the board needs.
  • Unlock unstructured data. Cognitive automation can identify underground trends impacting businesses. From unlocking rich insights from sources like social media, emails and even call-centre transcripts, artificial intelligence holds the key to helping Finance develop and scale customer-centric services to advance their competitive position.
  • Take care of continuous accounting. Finance teams no longer need to sweat the small stuff – daily accounting transactions, budgeting and compiling spreadsheet reports. Instead, cognitive automation will do the work so they can focus on providing informed insights and delivering higher-value inputs that add real benefit to the business.
  • Handle strategic risk management. Cognitive computing lends itself particularly well to risk management, as threats usually include unlikely or unclear events. Cognitive capabilities are surpassing traditional analytics to tackle massive data sets by identifying any indicators of known and unknown risks.
  • Complete sophisticated planning and forecasting. Artificial intelligence can save employees from days of historical data analysis by scanning reports and compiling results in seconds – even while employees are sleeping. Thanks to cognitive tools, Finance can respond and adjust to changes in the economy and across industries incredibly fast.
  • Meet the increasing demands of stakeholders, investors and boards. Producing corporate reports which satisfy the needs of key stakeholders in the business is critical. Cognitive tools can pull the relevant data from multiple systems to present meaningful data which helps stakeholders make informed decisions on how best to grow the business.

How ERPaaS can help

With our cognitive intelligence platform, you can:

  • Easily validate invoice data to ensure the format is compliant and consistent.
  • Answer more questions from the board with reliable and error-free data that’s been automatically validated and compliance-checked.
  • Unlock more unstructured data within emails and FAQs for analysis. Questions are then automatically answered or redirected to the appropriate department without human input.
  • Focus on higher-value tasks that demand your attention whilst automation takes care of continuous accounting.

Contact Colin King on 01463 710 816 or email info@erpaas.com today to find out how ERPaaS can drive value creation for your business.

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Why unconventional appraisals work

 The world of performance management is changing rapidly, but the way we manage our people hasn’t yet caught up. Many frontline managers are still relying on old management practices that are no longer effective or contribute to challenges with productivity. Let us show you some ways to freshen up your approach to appraisals…

The traditional performance appraisal – based on an annual rating system – is fundamentally flawed and disparate from the values-based, vision-driven and collaborative work environments that many organisations claim to have.

We now live in a world where business moves too quickly for annual reviews to be effective, and where people want immediate and meaningful feedback. By removing ratings and switching to more frequent, less formal check-ins, people can develop faster without the fear of having to justify a rating at the end of the year.

There are various approaches managers can use for different situations to motivate, engage and retain their employees. Here are a few ideas to help you shake things up:

  • Monthly 1-2-1s. Some workers need goals once a month or even once a week (depending on your industry). Have regular catch ups to assess how employees are feeling about their current workload and whether they need more goals to work towards. Frequent communication helps with employee engagement and development as managers better understand how their people are doing.
  • Quarterly team performance reviews. Work is happening in teams more than ever, and many people are involved in multiple teams that often spread around the world. This makes it difficult for managers to accurately know their team members’ performance, with employees doing work managers don’t see or even understand. Setting team goals to align every team member allows managers to correctly assess performance to set goals for the next quarter.
  • Annual performance review. If done and managed properly, annual reviews can work. There’s no need to get rid of them completely as they can build a culture of trust among employees and managers. Use data for the whole year to talk about an employee’s performance and help them work towards their longer-term career goals.
  • Real-time feedback. Whenever it feels right, it’s always good to give employees real-time feedback so they can improve their performance fast or feel appreciation in the moment. Regular reviews and feedback are needed so employees can constantly improve their performance and enjoy their time at the company.

Let’s look at a few companies that have changed their performance reviews:

Google exercises peer reviews so it doesn’t rely on management to collate feedback. Instead, it gathers realistic feedback from the people on the ground.

Zappos’ reviews are always linked to the company values to ensure the culture thrives via its employees.

Gap adopts monthly coaching sessions called GPS (grow, perform, succeed) between management and employees instead of annual reviews.

GE has a performance tracking mobile app that allows employees to make text and audio notes, attach documents and upload handwritten notes so managers can collaborate on progress and goal-setting.

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If your current appraisal process isn’t working for you then think about an approach that feels right for your employees and company culture. Once you’ve found a solution that works for you, there are eight things you should always practice when it comes to conducting reviews:

  1. Transparency – set clear goals from the get-go
  2. Recognition – remove any fear by starting off with a positive
  3. Create an action plan together – start mapping out goals with the employee so they have a sense of ownership
  4. Set personal goals – what are their career goals and how can you help them?
  5. Take notes and follow up – note down everything you’ve discussed and follow up to make sure everyone is on the same page
  6. Gather regular employee feedback – make regular check-ins to ensure everything is on track
  7. Focus on behaviour, not personality traits – it’s easier for employees to accept feedback on what they do rather than about who they are
  8. Use as much data as possible give employees real-time feedback that’s more accurate.

 

10 Tips for Effectively Managing Your Business Expenses

You probably don’t love managing your expenses, but that doesn’t mean you have to hate it!

Whether you’re tired of expense management being its own unmanageable expense or whether you’re at your wit’s end with the huge pile of receipts and paperwork to be dealt with at the end of every month, these ten tips will help you whip your expense management system into shape!

1. Automate as much as possible

Why waste time on piles of paperwork or unwieldy spreadsheets when your system could deal with that for you? Automate your expense claim process and never worry about paperwork again!

2. Claim and approve from any location

Waiting until you get back to the office to make a claim can be a real hassle, and can lead to mistakes or forgotten claims. Record your claims from your mobile device as you spend and submit them immediately, enabling a faster and more accurate process.

3. Do your part – protect the environment!

If your expenses process is 100% digital, those mountains of paperwork and receipts sitting on your desk can be reduced to nothing. Save time and desk space, and save the trees – it’s the best of both worlds!

4. Keep it auditable

When it’s time to audit your expenses, what would you prefer: piles of unsorted papers, many of which are missing or incomplete, or easily searchable and consistent digital records? We know what we’d choose!

5. Stop hoarding receipts

It’s the end of the month and you’re swimming in little pieces of paper. Was this one a business expense or a personal expense? Is there something missing here? This one only has a cost on it…what was it for? Avoid this all-too-common scenario by taking a picture of your receipt, storing it in your expenses system along with the relevant info, and throwing the paper copy away. You’ll never have to wade through a pile of receipts again!

6. Avoid mistakes

“To err is human, but to persist in error is diabolical.” We’d like to think that Seneca the Younger was talking about his expenses process when he first said this! Avoid common human errors – which can be the difference between a £5,500 purchase and a £55.00 purchase – by using an expenses system that automatically validates all inputs and does most of the data entry for you.

7. Keep it simple

A simple process means less time spent training and more time spent doing!

8. Predict the future

You don’t need a time machine or a crystal ball to predict your future expenditures — by storing all claims in the same system and making them easily accessible, you can perform accurate analyses of your data, identifying any spending patterns, recurring trends or problems with your expenses process with ease.

9. Make sure everyone sticks to policy

Enable your system to automatically deal with policy violations or unusual claims and you’ll be able to stop false or fraudulent claims in their tracks.

10. Avoid that last-minute panic

A simple system that can be easily accessed from anywhere at any time, and that can process claims at a fraction of the time taken by traditional paper- or spreadsheet-based systems will save you and your employees that last-minute submission day panic. There’s no need to leave everything until the end of the month when making claims is so easy!

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If you’d like information about Expenses&HospitalityPlus, which can provide your organisation with all of the above and more, visit www.erpaas.com, or click here to view and download our brochure. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via Twitter, or send us an email at info@erpaas.com.

(This post is part of a series of posts showcasing the benefits that each of our PolicyPlus applications can bring to your organisation. Click here to visit the original post and view a list of all the posts in the series.)

Parental Leave – too complex to comply?

Every year, tens of thousands of new mothers in the UK are forced to give up their jobs due to issues largely relating to both employers’ and employees’ understanding (or lack thereof) of parental statutory rights and maternity leave.

This number isn’t hard to believe when you realise that new mothers encounter significant problems when requesting time off and flexible working, and that 16% of employers feel maternity leave is too difficult to implement.

It seems that parents are receiving a fair amount of misinformation, too – about 21% of employed mothers believe they are only entitled to 39 weeks of statutory paid maternity leave, despite being entitled to an extended maternity leave of up to 52 weeks, and fathers who choose not to take paternity leave tend to do so because they don’t think they can afford to take the time off, even though they’re entitled to pay during that time.

On top of this, almost half of all pregnant women in the UK are disadvantaged in some way simply for being pregnant or taking maternity leave, and around 7% of those women (30,000 people!) lose their jobs as a direct result of their pregnancy. Discrimination due to pregnancy or parenthood status is illegal, and yet this sort of thing continues to happen every day.

The main reasons that employers give for not complying with the law, whether unintentionally or otherwise, seem to be the costs and difficulties associated with planning and organising work or cover for employees who are pregnant or on maternity leave, as well as a general lack of knowledge or understanding of maternity rights.

It’s no surprise, then, that there is such a stigma attached to parental leave – the complexity of the process itself seems to be a significant contributing factor to employers’ reluctance to allow certain types of parental leave, as well as to all parties’ overall lack of understanding of statutory leave entitlements. Aside from the cultural expectations regarding the roles of mothers and fathers, the discrimination that some parents experience in the workplace could, in fact, be an indirect result of the pressure that managers experience during the parental leave process, which largely seems to centre around the cost incurred by the organisation.

 So how do we solve these problems?

There are three simple steps that you can take to avoid the common problems associated with parental leave:

  1. Remove the burden of knowledge from employees

It seems logical to combat this lack of knowledge by educating your organisation’s entire workforce about their entitlements and the legal issues surrounding parental leave, but is this inevitably costly process – which will have to be repeated often – really the best solution?

Instead, consider the benefits of completely removing the burden of knowledge from your employees and placing it onto your ERP system, which already deals with many of your other policies and procedures, allowing your policies to work as intended without relying on an employee’s understanding of that policy to determine its success.

If the steps of the procedure are predetermined and automated, and if your policies are not open to interpretation, there’s much less room for error, and even less room for personal opinions to affect the final judgment.

  1. Keep it mobile

Your employees need time to discuss their choices with their partners, families and medical teams, and they need to be able to easily compare and contrast all their options so they can find the dates that are perfect for everyone involved.

A request process that can be initiated from any location is ideal in this case, as it will allow your employees to make their decisions with the help of others and see the results in real time, rather than relying on their memory of a prior discussion and trying to make the decisions on their own.

If your employees can take their time and don’t feel rushed or pressured to decide before they’re ready, they can have more confidence in their final decision. This will speed up the process and managers will be able to organise cover for that employee’s work much sooner.

In the event that an employee does have to alter their request, a process that can be initiated from home immediately, rather than one that requires them to visit the workplace, will help you to avoid that last-minute panic to organise cover by notifying you as soon as possible. 

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  1. Keep it simple

It’s clear that many managers are uncomfortable with the idea of employees taking parental leave, both because of the negative effects imposed on other employees and because of the costs incurred by the organisation. It could be that finding cover for the employee’s role is too difficult or costly on short notice, or that the entire process is too lengthy and involved, subtracting from time that should be spent doing something more productive.

These concerns are valid, but they’re also very easily solved by ensuring that the process is kept as simple as possible.

Managers don’t need to be involved at every step of the way – they only need to be informed when the employee has reached their final decision so they can provide their approval and organise cover. There’s also no reason for the process to involve a large amount of information gathering if your organisation has its own ERP system, as most of that information is already present.

The perfect parental leave process will ensure that the employee is provided with all the information they need to make their decision without excessive managerial input, and will aim to reduce complexity as much as possible to minimise the time spent seeking clarification and increase the time that managers have to organise cover or redistribute workloads.

By taking these steps, you can ensure that your employees not only feel comfortable requesting parental leave, but also that they receive no less than what they’re legally entitled to and no more than your policies allow.

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ParentalLeavePlus can help!

ERPaaS have developed ParentalLeavePlus, which implements these solutions for you in the form of a user-friendly, mobile-enabled application that integrates directly with your ERP system. It enables employees to create clear projections of their parental leave entitlement based on different dates and circumstances as many times as they like, from wherever they like, reducing the length of the process to mere minutes and ensuring that both legal and organisational policies are enforced consistently in every situation without bias or error.

Considering how easy it is for employees to generate these projections and to understand exactly what they’re entitled to, requests can easily be submitted months before the leave is due to start, enabling managers to organise appropriate cover or distribute the workload evenly between remaining employees without difficulty.

When using ParentalLeavePlus, you may also find that you’d benefit from another of our applications, FlexibleWorkingPlus, which can ensure that every new parent’s return to work happens as smoothly and comfortably as possible by simplifying the process of requesting and approving flexible working patterns.

Best of all, these applications can be up and running within two months, and we don’t charge for consultation or support, so your organisation can begin saving right from the get-go!

Find out more about ParentalLeavePlus

If ParentalLeavePlus sounds like something your organisation would benefit from, or if you would like to find out more information, visit www.erpaas.com, or click here to view and download our ParentalLeavePlus brochure. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via Twitter, or send us an email at info@erpaas.com.

(This post is part of a series of posts showcasing the benefits that each of our PolicyPlus applications can bring to your organisation. Click here to visit the original post and view a list of all the posts in the series.)

 

FlexibleWorkingPlus – A Flexible Application for Flexible Working

It’s been more than two years since the right to request a flexible working pattern was extended to all employees of UK businesses, and yet less than 9% of job vacancies in the UK currently offer flexible working.

Here at ERPaaS, most of our employees work flexibly, and it really does make a difference. We’re quicker to respond to urgent issues, we’re more comfortable and therefore less stressed, we’re more productive and we have a better work-life balance. Flexible working equals flexible employees who can respond and adapt to any situation or life circumstance. On top of that, because a lot of us work from home, we also save a fortune on office space, commuting, equipment, and sick pay (there’s no need to pull a sickie when your working pattern perfectly suits your lifestyle!).

Most of the above goes without saying; the advantages of flexible working patterns have been reported on and blogged about and presented at conferences for years now, but nobody ever seems to focus on the main disadvantage – the cost. How on Earth can an organisation that already has complex processes, policies and procedures in place – along with the matching computer systems – ever hope to implement a new set of policies and procedures on such a large scale without generating a huge bill?

It’s the classic corporate computer conundrum: your organisation’s computer systems are monstrous and unyielding, stubbornly standing in the way of progress and refusing to accommodate any changes without an unreasonable amount of effort and cost. How can you realistically achieve the seemingly miraculous cost savings that are being reported on every other week? The initial consultation alone could set you back tens of thousands of pounds, if not more, and who knows how long the project will actually take?

Well, we want you to know that it doesn’t have to be this way – your computer systems should be just as flexible as your working patterns!

ERPaaS have developed FlexibleWorkingPlus, a PolicyPlus application that is designed to automate your flexible working policies to provide a simple and efficient method of requesting and approving flexible working patterns from anywhere and at any time. It’s fully mobile enabled, so you don’t have to worry about having to travel in to the office to use it, it’s extremely user friendly, meaning it can be ready for use immediately with little to no training required, and it integrates directly into your existing ERP system, so you won’t have to spend time transferring data.

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FlexibleWorkingPlus is, of course, flexible enough to accommodate policies of any shape and size, regardless of their prevalence in your industry, so you don’t have to worry – all your non-standard policies will be applied exactly as intended, and the process for updating them is just a simple as it would be for any standard policy.

Best of all, we aim to get your new application up and running within two months, so there’ll be no waiting around, and we don’t charge for consultation, development or support.

We know first-hand how important flexible working can be to an organisation, so we’ve worked hard to design an application that will make its implementation as straightforward and quick as possible. If your organisation is looking to offer some degree of flexibility in employee working patterns, or if you have already done so but desperately need to streamline the process, FlexibleWorkingPlus is almost certainly the solution to all your problems.

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For more information, visit www.erpaas.com, or click here to view and download our FlexibleWorkingPlus brochure. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via Twitter, or send us an email at info@erpaas.com.

(This post is part of a series of posts showcasing the benefits that each of our PolicyPlus applications can bring to your organisation. Click here to visit the original post and view a list of all the posts in the series.)