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5/20/20 5:08 PM

Coronavirus Impact to Finance Operations: The End of the Line for Traditional Finance

The train had already left the station, but it was a local, with many stops along the way. Now with COVID-19, the train has changed to an express, and the end of the line is in sight.

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4/8/20 9:28 AM

Seven Early Observations on Business Operations in the “Brave New World” of COVID-19

The world is changing right in front of our eyes, and every aspect of our lives is going to be touched in one way or another by the COVID-19 crisis.

How we manage our business operations is certainly no exception, and even in the relatively early stages of this ongoing situation, certain things are coming into focus. I’d like to share a few “early observations” of the impact of COVID-19 on business operations:

1. “People Dependency” is no longer something a business can afford

 

Every organization has them; the people who have been there forever, and have unique knowledge of specific processes or systems (or both), with that knowledge located within the heads of the individuals performing the tasks. If COVID-19 has proven anything it’s that “people dependency” is a luxury that a business can no longer afford.

Those people that you are dependent on may not be available when you need them. This is not exactly an “Aha!” moment, but organizations have lived with this situation for far too long, whether because of operational inertia, or a tolerance of these individuals’ “uniqueness” or unwillingness to share their knowledge. This has to change.

Operating silos can no longer exist. Roles must be redefined, processes standardized and where possible, automated, and people must be cross-trained across multiple activities to step in as needed. The more flexible and digitally mature an organization is, the easier they will be able to adapt to new operating requirements, such as broad-scale work-from-home.

 

2 . Manual processes are another operational “luxury” that must now be limited through standardization and automation

 

Very closely aligned with the “people dependency” scenario, having a large number of manual processes can limit your flexibility in transitioning to a work-from-home (“WFH”) operating model. How many organizations still move paper around their office, whether it’s to get an approval on a vendor invoice, or to update a customer bill, or even to still sign checks? From my experience, there are far more of these things still happening (and not just in smaller organizations) than people may realize (or are willing to admit). In the world of WFH, these practices cannot continue.

Additionally, companies that take more time processing basic transactions due the wide range of exceptions that are in place, adds unnecessary complexity to the operation. This will also limit the ability to quickly and effectively move to a WFH business continuity scenario. While “one size does not have to fit all”, good customer services does not have to mean adapting your processes to every customers’ wishes (or demands). Remember, flexibility and agility is the order of the day, and that applies to customer service as well.

There is a lot of technology available in the market to reduce or eliminate manual processes, such as robotics process automation, automated reconciliations, financial closing management workflow, intelligent data capture, AP automation, customer and supplier portals, etc. Companies that have taken the lead in implementing these technologies have been the ones that have been able to adapt to this new operating model more effectively. The time has come for every organization to move to limit (or eliminate) their manual, non-standardized processes.

 

3. The ability to be agile, flexible and scalable is paramount

 

Too often, business operations are like the Titanic, desperately trying to maneuver to avoid that iceberg. For some, COVID-19 is the iceberg that has gashed a huge hole in the hull of their business; life rafts are in the water, and there aren’t enough to go-around.

Even before the current situation with the virus, businesses have been recognizing the need for more operational agility and flexibility. The ability to rapidly adjust to changing business demands, and provide more focus on forward-looking business insights has been a foundational part of the digital transformation of business operations. But now, the need to shift resources from transactional work to higher value activities, has never been clearer.  

Organizations need to have the ability to move the focus of their team as business demands arise. Standardizing and automating transactional activities to free up people from mundane tasks allows for more operational flexibility and agility. This, combined with being able to ramp a team up and down, as needed, ensures that the cost of business operations remains aligned with revenue.

 

4. Increasing operational visibility and transparency is needed to improve focus on performance and productivity

 

If you ask many departments about their operational performance and related volumetric data, you will most likely get a “shoulder shrug” and some comments about needing to make that information more available. Once again, this is a situation that many organizations have historically lived with, and it hasn’t had a huge impact on daily operations. Until now.

With business requirements rapidly changing due to dynamic and uncertain revenue streams, and resources scattered and potentially missing in action, having real-time analytics and clear visibility to changes in internal or external operations (higher or lower than expected transaction volumes, supply chain or customer service issues, business closings or hours reduced, etc.) need to be identified and responded to rapidly. The ability to quickly shift operational focus and resources to address problem areas has become critical.

In the WFH operating model, a new, more formal management paradigm also needs to take hold, with more structured communication across teams (daily standups, etc.), more granular and targeted operating metrics (down to the processor level, for example, to monitor individuals’ performance), and easy-to-digest reporting.

Increasing your operational visibility and transparency, providing real-time access and analytics to sales and operational data, and having the agility to respond to changes “on the fly” is an important part of the “brave new world” of business operations.

 

5. Being ahead of your business’ financial curve is closely aligned with (and almost as important as) “bending the virus curve”

 

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, we have repeatedly heard about the importance of “bending the curve”, in order to reduce the rate of infections that are occurring. But there is another curve that needs to be closely monitored during this situation, the financial curve.  

Businesses need to realistically and accurately assess the impact of the quarantine and social distancing guidelines on their revenue streams, and be in front of the changes that are coming.  Unless it’s already been mandated by the government, when to close your business or reduce your operating hours, when to re-open and with which services, and how to manage employees (who to retain, who to reduce, who to furlough, etc.) are important decisions that businesses need to make.

Incurring too much cost when revenues drop dramatically can kill a business. But so can drastically reducing staff when the business demands are still there, not to mention the impact these decisions have on the individuals who work for you. Scrambling to get back up and running when the customers start to return can create additional challenges. Deciding how to handle suppliers (who to pay now, who to defer, who to re-negotiate with, etc.) can also have longer term impacts on your operations, once you come out of this cycle.

These decisions must be made with clear, accurate data models in hand, and businesses are more dependent now, than ever before, on having good data and analytics available, to provide accurate business insights and guidance. The digital transformation of your business can wait no longer.

 

6. Those dusty old “Business Continuity Plans” that have not been tested are now being put to the test

 

Many organizations took false comfort in the idea that they had a business continuity plan (“BCP”) that defined all the activities the company would need to take in the event of a disaster that would impact their business operations. Then came COVID-19.

Most BCP’s contemplate a localized disaster that impacts a specific area or operation, and emphasized operational redundancy and transportability. Very few organizations planned for a global pandemic that potentially could shut down the entire world. Well, here we are.

The ability to implement a broad-scale WFH program has many moving parts that need to be aligned for the program to work. The existing business infrastructure needs to have all of the elements readily available for employees to move from a centralized location (the corporate office) to a distributed, WFH scenario. This includes laptops or similar remote computing devices, secured communications and connectivity (i.e., VPN, virtual desktops, etc.), collaboration (i.e., Zoom, Teams, Slack, etc.) and knowledge management tools (i.e., intelligent data capture, workflow and shared document repositories, etc.) to enable large, dispersed teams to work together effectively.

And that’s on the “corporate” side. It also requires that the employees’ local technology and operational infrastructure can support this requirement. Broadband connectivity (30MB minimum), webcam, headphones, sufficient workspace and privacy, etc.) are necessary for a WFH program to allow you to “work from home.”

This has recently been proven to be an issue, not just for employees here in the US, but it is having a significant impact on the offshore operating model that many large organizations have become dependent upon, whether it is with a partner (outsourced) or captive (offshore shared services). Specifically, India and the Philippines where the strength of the overall infrastructure outside the large corporate parks is questionable. Understanding the true capabilities of your offshore business partner from a broader, in-country telecommunications and power infrastructure is a new question that now needs to be asked.  

Clearly, very few BCP’s truly planned for this broad of an event, and we are seeing the impact in terms of operational issues/delays and even business disruption that goes beyond the direct impact of COVID-19 on the workforce.

 

7. Broad scale work-from-home operating models may become the “new normal”

 

The implications of the novel Coronavirus on business operations are far-reaching. Will the virus subside and then reappear? Will a different virus come at another time? One thing that is clear is that businesses can no longer put their “heads in the sand” and hope that this will not happen again. Being prepared for a future event will be as important as getting through this one, and the lessons learned from this event must inform our planning for the future.

"Businesses can no longer put their “heads in the sand” and hope that this will not happen again."

Do businesses reduce their investment in centralized operations and instead go with a decentralized operating model? Do you even need to have large groups of people working together in one or several locations, or do you develop robust remote workforce collaboration capabilities? And what about the local telecom and technology infrastructure challenges? How do we ensure that people can work effectively remotely for extended periods of time? And how do you manage the security around this type of operating model?

These are all key questions that will need to be answered as a by-product of COVID-19. But some key considerations for successfully operating in a Work-From-Home model include:

  • Ensure that you have adequate (and easily portable) Digital Workspace Infrastructure. Laptops and personal devices are no longer “toys” that only the privileged executives get to have. Broadband connectivity at home is not just for streaming Netflix anymore. Having a “home office” is no longer just for a tax deduction. Make sure that secure, remote connectivity (VPN, etc.) with pre-configured access to key systems and data is ready to go. Ensure that employees have adequate home workspace that provides the needed access, privacy, and security. And ensure that your IT Help Desk has the bandwidth and tools to manage a larger volume of calls when a remote workforce ramps up.  

  • Clean up your business operations in advance of any broad scale WFH operation. Automate and standardize your processes to reduce or eliminate manual activities and high levels of exception handling. And provide good, real-time visibility into operational activities and details to help manage a remote workforce.

  • Implement strong collaboration and knowledge management tools to enable a dispersed workforce to work together. The technologies are available to support a remote operation, and having people knowledgeable of the tools and how to use them will accelerate and maximize the benefits of this transition, and make it seamless. Focusing on Security Awareness and Training for remote employees is no longer a checklist item for your auditors. Employees must be taught to operate remotely with as much care and protection as possible.

  • Rethink your management approach, relying less on proximity to people and individual performance, and more on processes, tools and teamwork. Communication is key. It just doesn’t have to involve calling out to someone across the cubicles.

The “Brave New World” of business operations has arrived, and while we are still in the middle of the crisis, it’s not too early to start learning from it.

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3/30/20 11:42 AM

The Right Service Level Agreement Metrics for your BPO Partner

A well-written service level agreement (SLA) stands as a critical component of the relationship between a client and a BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) provider. At its simplest level, it ensures everyone is on the same page – protecting the client and provider with mutually agreed-upon terms, guidelines, and metrics that enable everyone to meet expectations and work productively. 

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3/25/20 5:52 PM

F&A BPO: What to Outsource and What to Retain

CFOs who think outsourcing means packing up their department’s entire roster of duties and shipping them overseas never to be heard from again need to reassess the current state not just of outsourcing, but of the evolving role of the Finance Department. In reality, companies are never fully outsourcing their entire finance organization, but just the more transactional processes that are in fact holding them back from focusing on forward-looking analysis and business decision support.

 

According to a recent KPMG report, organizations outsourcing finance are on average outsourcing 38% of their processes, which represents an increase of 81% versus 2013.

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3/20/20 2:24 PM

ERP Implementation vs Finance Outsourcing: What Comes First?

It’s the kind of chicken or egg question that can get consultants opening for hours: If a Finance Department aims to outsource and perform an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system implementation, which one should come first?

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3/11/20 5:44 PM

Process Mining as a Tool to Accelerate Your RPA Journey

Are you looking for new and advanced techniques to identify and prioritize the opportunities to improve and automate your business processes? If the answer is: 'Yes', then read on and find out more about how process mining can help!

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3/10/20 11:04 AM

7 Secrets for DevOps Cross Functional Team Success

Nowadays, DevOps is one of the hottest buzzwords in the IT industry. It's the new standard of how IT companies can produce excellent outcomes in a faster, more natural way. By combining the benefits of DevOps and cross-functional teams, you can get to peak performance. In this article, we offer you some tips on how to do it.

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3/6/20 9:14 AM

IT Outsourcing: The Why, the What, and the How

It’s possible for a company today to outsource just about any IT operation. But businesses have different budgets, priorities and objectives, which means they vary widely in what IT processes they should outsource, to whom, and for what purpose. They must make educated choices about processes to outsource, and outsourcing partners, since a hasty or ill-thought-out decision could result in years-long lock-in to an unsatisfactory agreement, surprisingly high costs, and failure to meet strategic business goals.

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3/4/20 10:44 AM

Selecting the Right Help Desk Outsourcing Partner

When a company chooses to outsource its IT help desk, it must take care to investigate providers completely. Things that look attractive on the surface -- like cheap level-one ticket servicing, for example -- could hide ugly surprises, like poorly trained staff and frequent ticket escalation. It is important to find an outsourcer committed not just to excellent ticket servicing with minimal escalation, but also prevention of issues and continuous improvement. 

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2/26/20 4:01 PM

The New Intelligent NOC

A Network Operations Center (NOC) is a location where IT professionals can support, monitor and maintain networks and data centers. The NOC is the center of software distribution, network troubleshooting, router and domain name management, coordination with connected systems, and performance monitoring. Every business can choose whether they'll have an in-house NOC, outsourced NOC or choose a combination of both. According to their choice, the outcome of the NOC monitoring, services and functions will be different.

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2/12/20 2:03 PM

How 2020's Top RPA Tools Stack Up, and Why UiPath is #1

The last three years were game-changing for robotic process automation. The media and technology analysts published countless articles and studies examining the trend of intelligent automation with RPA software while vendors competed fiercely for new customers the market attracted.

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2/10/20 3:27 PM

[Interview] Redefining Outsourcing through Nearshoring & Innovation

Auxis CEO Raul Vega was interviewed by Insights Success Magazine in the context of Auxis being awarded as one of The Most Admired Companies to watch in 2019. Read a summary of the interview below:

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12/6/19 9:03 AM

Auxis Recognized as One of the 20 Most Promising AWS Solution Providers

As the use of cloud computing continues to grow, organizations are putting more of their workloads in public clouds and pursuing multi-cloud strategies that will hopefully generate lower costs, increase agility and provide greater flexibility. However, that is not always the case as the cloud journey can become quite bumpy and the need for a cloud provider can become urgent.

In the December edition of CIO Review Magazine, the publishers compiled a list of the 20 Most Promising AWS Solution Providers, of which Auxis was proudly featured.

The purpose of the list was to guide organizations in harnessing the power of new-age AWS solutions and ensure the advancement of core IT operations within their firms and augment the AWS functionalities they offer to clients. 

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12/5/19 9:49 AM

Service Consistency for our IT Managed Services Clients with ITIL4

Auxis has grown over the years, so have the needs, demands, and expectations of its clients. We believe that it’s imperative that aligning IT services with the needs of our client’s business should be a mutual vision. As Auxis ITO Operations has adhered to the IT Information Library (ITIL) framework over the last decade, it has been done so using a combination of ITIL v2 and v3 with the sole purpose of implementing a “best practices” framework to improve IT services and customer satisfaction at all levels and also to meet and exceed service expectations by being more agile and working more efficiently.

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12/4/19 11:45 AM

Now is the Optimal Time to Reboot Work with RPA

Could RPA be the transformational lifeline that companies are seeking to push their earnings into the black? Given that RPA implementations can be done in a matter of weeks and not months or years, perhaps it might be. Consider this; According to a recent Computer Economics survey on RPA trends, nearly one quarter of large organizations are currently dabbling in some form of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), while investment in RPA shows that that growth should continue for quite some time. In this article we will give you enough reasons why, regardless of your company size, now might be the right time to reboot work with Robotics Process Automation (RPA).

 

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11/22/19 3:05 PM

Outsourcing Role in Modern Finance Organizations (Discussion Recap)

One of the stone cold realities of today’s business landscape is that it is marked by growing competitive intensity & disruption. In fact, recent research shows that since 2000, 52 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist as a result of digital disruption. The ways in which one can deal with today’s digital disruption start by understanding how it differs from past industry changes, making sure that we don’t make the same mistakes again, and exploring ways in which we can make change a trusted ally instead of a vindictive enemy. The other reality? Most executives don’t have a road map for change. 

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11/6/19 1:17 PM

Top 10 Facts About Costa Rica

What do you know about Costa Rica? Although it’s true that most people associate Costa Rica with palm trees, rain forests, its natural beauty, a diverse landscape bordered by two oceans and access to countless adventure activities like zip lining, surfing and exploring volcanoes. But did you know that over 350 high-tech companies and 29 of the Fortune 100 companies have established successful operations in Costa Rica? 

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10/30/19 10:19 AM

Maximizing the Value of your Cloud (CIO Breakfast Roundtable Recap)

“Every company, regardless of size is doing something in the Cloud!”

With that spot on proclamation from Auxis Technology Leader and moderator, Alvaro Prieto, The Auxis CIO Breakfast Roundtable on How to Maximize your Cloud, was officially off and running.

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10/30/19 10:01 AM

UiPath Forward III 2019 in Las Vegas-Recap

Billed as 2 days of learning, growing and collaborating, UiPath’s FORWARD III 2019 event in Las Vegas certainly lived up to the hype. Whether it was the track sessions that provided hands-on opportunities to look, feel and experience what was coming down the pike at UiPath, or the deep dives into product and technical topics and the strategic business insights coming from the army that is the UiPath team members, expectations were obliterated in a good way.
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10/11/19 5:16 PM

Traditional Outsourcing Vs. Successful Outsourcing

Outsourcing is no longer just about cost savings. It’s an undeniably strategic tool that enables companies to capitalize on the world’s evolution into a smaller, more tech-savvy place

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