How can organizations improve efficiency?

Focusing on efficiencies not only saves money, but can increase innovative thinking

By Loretta Roll, PMP

Ask anyone within a corporation or professional services firm if they can explain the process of their deliverables and their answer will likely be along the lines of “Yes, we have been doing it the same way for the last 30 years”. You elaborate by asking “But how do you know how to deliver these services to your clients?” and the response will probably be an ambiguous, “I just know”. But the reality is how one person “knows” may be quite different from the way someone else “just knows” how to execute the same process or deliver on the same service.

Amidst the challenges that face professional services firms, increased competition, technological advances and fluctuating market forces are but a few that impact timely and innovative delivery to clients.  So why add internal inefficiencies as a hurdle on top of it all? Establishing the right processes, systematically documented and followed, can help improve work flow and allow for time to focus on what’s truly important in your field: thinking critically about how you can innovate. Professional service firms must focus on their services to clients that provide the insight, analysis, and advice needed to make quick business decisions and develop long-term business strategies.

A report by the AICPA, “CPA Horizons 2025”, defines what the CPA profession will look like in the near future. The CPA profession is no longer defined by traditional services. With anytime-anywhere access to data and advances in automation, financial advisory service firms can leverage outsourced client accounting and “virtual” CFO/controller services as an avenue to build deeper more meaningful relationships with clients. This allows firms to learn more about their clients’ business situations, and position themselves to provide proactive advice; thus, helping to cement a role as the trusted business adviser.

Yet none of these innovative service offerings matter if the core transactional activities are not done efficiently, accurately and on a timely basis. Before you can innovate, you need to be efficient.

So what can an organization do to improve operational efficiency?

At Richter, we have committed to implementing a Business Process Management (BPM) methodology. In simple terms BPM enables organizations to manage the lifecycle of its most critical processes from its initial stages, to execution, through to monitoring and control.

How can your organization benefit from BPM?

  1. Consistent service delivery
    Streamlined business processes provide operational efficiency that allows managers to have visibility and control of deliverables and ensure a consistent service delivery.  No one wants to be “hit or miss” when servicing clients (whether it is from year to year or from division to division).  Clients must have a consistently great customer experience, whether they are meeting to discuss strategic business plans, having their annual audit or filing their income tax returns.
  2. Compliance and Visibility
    BPM ensures that business processes that affect client deliverables are documented and stored in an information system creating organizational memory. An automated software tool allows for transparency, availability of data and, most importantly, continuous improvement. Finally, automated processes permit scalability, supporting the growth of a firm.
  3. Agility
    Though counter-intuitive, agility is the ability to pause, look at your process, re-align to effect an improvement, eliminate waste or accommodate client needs and re-execute without interruption of delivery. A BPM solution enables organizations to increase efficiency while being more responsive. It provides management with the scope to make structured improvements.
  4. Cross functional communication
    Documenting business processes can provide guidance and an opportunity to streamline onboarding and training new and current employees. It provides a global view of firm processes and the interactions and inputs required for their delivery. When working in a multidisciplinary environment, knowing from whom and how the prior or post process is delivered enhances work and work flow efficiency.
  5. Reduced costs and higher revenues
    Enhanced processes allow organizations to trim costs associated with business process execution by reducing bottlenecks and lead time. Using Lean Six Sigma, processes can be reduced of waste (time and human capital resources) by removing rework and redundant tasks, which will in turn increase cost savings.

So let’s break the myths that process management is just checklist driven, static, rigid and inflexible.  When you can rely on standardized processes that are agile and understood internally it not only allows for, but also unleashes critical thinking and innovation by providing the solid foundation of known efficiency.