IFAC & cloudThing’s PAO Digital Assessment Tool Part 3: How Close Are You to Adding Automation to Your Business Systems?
cloudThing | March 11, 2021
IFAC recently teamed up with cloudThing to offer our membership a free Digital Assessment tool that would assess an organization’s Digital Readiness ahead of a digital transformation project. cloudThing’s PAO Digital Assessment tool has been designed to measure how digitally ‘mature’ an organization is, or where they already are on their individual digital transformation journey.
The Tool will be open for PAOs to complete from November 12, 2020, to March 31, 2021. During this time, IFAC's main objective is to help PAOs complete the tool and understand, interpret, and prioritize their results. The results, (after being thoroughly anonymized) will allow IFAC, working in conjunction with cloudThing, to assess the digital readiness of the accountancy profession as a whole and strategize future support.
The Digital Assessment tool is broken down into different sections. The first section is focused on how an organization’s Culture & Capability is geared up to empower digital transformation and the second on an organization’s Vision & Strategy. Before continuing to Part 3 on Business Systems & Automation, we recommend reading the previous articles.
PAO Digital Assessment Tool Part 3 – Business Systems & Automation
SaaS & PaaS Infrastructure Adoption
SaaS and PaaS—Software-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service—describe the process of either moving to, or working in, the cloud. Both solutions offer cloud-hosted software such as Microsoft Office 365, and cloud-hosted application ‘building blocks’ such as databases, file storage, computing services, etc. on a subscription-based model.
Why are these things important to a digital transformation?
- They shift focus from just managing and maintaining cumbersome infrastructure and hardware (servers, racks, boxes, networking equipment, and storage devices, etc.) and focus the attention firmly on user experience and functionality.
- They can deliver new capabilities and functionalities much faster than traditional methods, enabling an organization to serve their members better.
- They give an organization the ability to benefit from the latest, advanced technology while implementing best practice policies, all before the competition has a chance to.
- They allow an organization to benefit from the collective evolution of the eco-system as most of the components will be automatically upgraded to the latest versions for free.
Is Your Organization Using Productivity Tooling?
Productivity software (sometimes called tooling) is a type of application used for producing information such as documents, presentations, worksheets, databases, charts, graphs, or digital video.
Utilizing productivity software allows your organization to:
- Empower users to complete everyday tasks quickly and more efficiently.
- Enable the production of professional quality documents and assets.
- Integrate applications from the same suite, which will allow for further data sharing, manipulation, and interoperability.
- Make working from home a lot easier, with employees moving with ease between work and home locations on multiple devices.
- Simplify communication between users, departments, and outside organizations, encouraging collaboration between all.
How ‘Real Time’ Are Your Communications?
Real-time communications (or RTC) is a term for any live communications method in which all users can interact in a live capacity, with little to no lag. Users’ devices can communicate in real-time without transmission delays by applying peer-to-peer architectures.
Since the widespread adoption of smartphones, almost all users now expect immediacy in their customer service and information exchange as the de facto standard and will often react negatively when this is not the case. That is why this section of the digital readiness tool seeks to address how advanced an organizations’ RTC capabilities are or could be. Implementing effective RTC will:
- Increase member and employee engagement.
- Increase morale through social interaction, particularly with a large network of remote workers.
- Improve the collaboration and mobility of your members and employees.
- Improve your customer service and satisfaction levels through the increased chances of resolving issues the first time.
Document Storage, Management & Discovery Ahead of a Digital Transformation
A document management system is any system that is used to receive, track, manage and store documents to reduce paper usage that can keep a record of the various versions created and modified by different users. More and more document storage and management solutions are becoming cloud-based, meaning that important documents can now be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection and the correct credentials.
Cloud-based documentation storage and management systems greatly aid in the digital transformation process by:
- Offering user-friendly and accessible interfaces, making any transition period for members and staff much easier to adjust.
- Offering enhanced security features for conveniently sharing files.
- Removing the need for documents to be shared by unsecured means (e.g., unencrypted email attachments).
- Enabling the concurrency of users, meaning more collaboration can occur as it is much easier to work in tandem on the same material.
- Synchronizing all devices so that the latest versions are always available.
- Backing everything up, so it is recoverable in the event of a disaster or a critical loss of data.
- Being more cost-efficient as there is no capital investment required in infrastructure for hosting large volumes of data.
Low-Code/No-Code Platforms Post Digital Transformation
Low-code/no-code applications are visual software development technologies that enable users to build rapidly, test, deploy and use modern business applications, mostly via configuring pre-built components. One of the significant steps available to an organization during and after a digital transformation is the ability for their various departments to create and use their own low-code/no-code apps.
- They empower citizen developers to build applications rapidly and safely.
- They offer enhanced agility by enabling organizations to be responsive to their end-users demands with accelerated turn-around times.
- They reduce the cost of development and remove the need for complex and expensive integrations.
- They support the process of building applications that work well with each other, avoiding expensive integrations.
- They bring data to the organization forefront with knowledge and information harnessed from data delivered via meaningful visual experiences.
- They allow organizations to embrace change as applications built on low-code/no-code platforms can be modified and adapted to emerging requirements easily.
Automating Your Business Processes
A big part of any digital transformation will be automating repetitive tasks to free up your staff for more critical duties by using technology to execute those recurring processes. As business processes evolve and your organization’s technology and workforce matures, automation is absolutely something that needs to adopt, with many looking for a third-party partner to help them. This should lead to:
- Increased efficiency.
- Reduced errors (i.e., keying errors) from manual input.
- Improved customer satisfaction.
- Reduced costs.
- Re-deployment of staff to areas that require human engagement.
Who’s Managing Your Organization’s Content?
Managing your organization’s content using enterprise-level tools and processes ensures a standardized approach, which means your authors can use templates to create or customize content to specific needs. Taking that approach means appropriate management controls are in place, and therefore, any content created is secure and standardized. Change logs also provide a version history so that users can contribute as a team, allowing for collaboration from multiple sources.
Going down this content management route ensures:
Content is published on a regular schedule.
- Content targeting is efficiently utilized to ensure its relevancy.
- Multiple users can contribute to the creation process simultaneously.
- Organizations are empowered to share content with their own staff and members.
- All content is stored in a centralized location, which will reduce duplication and storage costs.
- Workflows can be implemented to control the publishing process.
- Governance policies can be embedded into the process to provide audit trails for compliance.
Customer & Case Management Systems
Customer and Case Management Systems enable an organization’s support teams to efficiently resolve support cases while still ensuring a joined-up approach to customer data through master data management policies. This almost always includes full case management, SLA (service level agreement) management, knowledgebases, self-service support, chatbots, and clear reporting to stakeholders.
That is why this aspect of the digital readiness assessment tool seeks to understand what your organization already has in place and where improvements can be made. The benefits of which are:
- Robust case management provides efficient and unified support across all sources, including websites, email, telephone, Messenger, and social media.
- Customers and users (both internal and external) receive a unified experience combining many support sources with a standard set of operating procedures.
- Well-operated Case Management Systems enable service level agreements per customer, including automatic assignment, prioritization, reporting, and notification of status.
- Instant self-service support for everyday issues lead to a reduced workload on your support teams.
- Clear reporting, categorization, assignment, and prioritization provides information on root cause analysis to understand common issues or trends rapidly.
- Automated safeguard fault diagnosis can produce precise and repeatable support resolutions across distributed teams.
- Well-deployed case management systems have online support portals tightly integrated with existing customer experiences.
Upgrading Your Organizations Enterprise Resource & Finance Applications
Deploying enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems during your digital transformation will mean you can manage business functions and processes within a centralized and integrated system, often using a unified data store. This can include resource management, inventory and supply chain are connected to finance functions including accounts payable/receivable, general ledger, invoicing, credit, and payroll. This enables real-time analysis, planning, logistics, forecasting, and accounting.
The penultimate part of this section is designed to see what systems your organization is already using and what the transformation path might be. An efficient ERP system will give you:
- Efficiency through system unification, including reduced license costs, system management, and streamlined processes.
- Improved collaboration around information and processes enabled by a single data store and unified system.
- Improved analytics and forecasting for scenario planning and data-led business decision making.
- Improved productivity through efficient resource utilization (human and capital), streamlined processes, and error reduction.
- Simplified monitoring, compliance, and risk management through integrated auditing tools.
Self-Serve Human Resources, Payroll & Expenses
The final part of this section seeks to understand your organization’s HR and Payroll systems to see how much you could benefit post-transformation. The right cloud-based software solution (or multiple solutions) should allow authenticated staff from any location, through an easy-to-use online portal, to access and manage their HR data, view and access pay checks, submit business expense claims, view vacation balances, make leave requests, provide sickness absence data, and access and manage flexible employee benefits.
Transitioning to this system will give your organization access to:
- Reduced costs in administration, printing and mailing employee letters, pay checks, expenses, and managing personal data.
- Improved, real-time, staff experiences and efficient administration of leave and sickness requests at a team or department level.
- Improved recruitment and retention by offering flexible uptake of staff benefits including pension management, access to discount schemes, vacation trading, support staff wellbeing, and trade-in corporate share schemes.
Complete Your Assessment!
Locate the email sent on behalf of IFAC Membership, with the subject line, "IFAC PAO Digital Readiness Assessment Tool Launch." Your organization's unique access link will be located within.
Check out IFAC’s PAO Digital Transformation Series webpage which houses helpful resources, articles and videos on Digital Transformation and is regularly updated!
cloudThing, based in the UK, is a technology company that help organizations such as the British Red Cross, The South African Institute of Accountants, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants (England & Wales) to name but a few, digitally transform by taking advantage of the automation technology available to them on the cloud.