Give people easy to use tools that make sense, and they’ll use them.
Most businesses need a little help streamlining those frustrating back-office processes that remain as barriers to better information collection and use. What sort of processes? Time keeping, for whatever reason or need, is one of them. Maybe employee time spent relates specifically to billable project revenue, or possibly time spent is part of an embedded cost in an engagement. Or, time tracking may simply be a means to capture data on employee productivity. In a lot of situations, getting time records from contractors or employees is like asking them to move a mountain. Maybe there is a mountain to move, depending on how many sheets of notes and handwritten records they’ve got stacked up.
Another process to look at is expense management and reporting, where all those random size receipts taped to a piece of letter paper, credit card statements with lines blacked out with a Sharpie, and spreadsheets of purchase requisitions for things you’ve never heard of before get stacked in the in-box where you not-so-secretly hope a fire will start some time during the night. Someone actually has to go through this information and enter it into the system, and then decide what to do with the requests. When this “someone” is the owner or manager, it means taking time away from actually running the business. When it’s the bookkeeper, more focus may be placed on data entry than on verifying spending authorizations or managing the cash flow.
While almost every business has these time and expense management needs in their business, it is an area of automation and “tooling up” that is often overlooked. One of the reasons for this may be that a lot of the solutions users are asked to implement just aren’t “usable” enough, or don’t really fit the context of what the user needs to accomplish. In order to get the most value out of any business solution, workers must actually use the solution. It has been proven time and again that, if you give people easy tools that make sense, they’ll use them.
Your accounting software may have time tracking with it, but does it make sense for your employees to access accounting just to record their time? How about your contractors? Employee reimbursable expenses paid by credit card can be accessed directly via transaction downloads from the bank, but does it make sense for you to have access to the employee’s account? While there may be many ways to accomplish these tasks, there are only a few really effective ways which deliver the access as well as the security, and the relevant functionality that makes it easier for good workers to capture good data. Selecting a system with the right functionality is key, but finding a system people can and will actually use means you’ve found a real solution, not just a system.