Getting in Front of the Ball
There’s a lot more to accountability in a manufacturing or inventory-based business than simply keeping track of money in and money out. Particularly in an economy when nobody can afford to build or stock products too far ahead of demand, it is essential that these businesses have a means to not only track and manage purchasing, manufacturing, distribution and stocking activities, but to understand conditions or trends which impact the flow of materials and cash through the business. Further, this understanding must come in a timely manner in order for the business owner to make decisions and take action when it matters most. Unfortunately, many business owners find themselves “behind the ball”, constantly pushing to make forward strides, and often due to not having the information they need to make business decisions that matter now, today.
Why is it so critical for these businesses to have more and better information to help them make strategic decisions and answer daily operational questions? In a word: connectedness. The Internet has truly made the world smaller when it comes to participation with even the smallest of local businesses. Globalization of markets has impacted manufacturers in significant ways, and these businesses (like so many others) must now be prepared to address the realities of global supply chains, outsourcing, and a remote or mobile workforce and market. While many of the software solutions addressing the functional business requirements of manufacturing and inventory or warehouse management are “locally implemented” solutions, extending and integrating these solutions to address the new global and mobile paradigm may represent a significant expenditure in time and resources for the small enterprise.
Application hosting and web-based solutions have emerged to help businesses address the need to “modernize” legacy applications and enable greater levels of system management and access. Introducing the applications into a centralized and remotely accessible environment allows the business to immediately deliver the necessary support for remote work and mobile access, and positions the system to facilitate collaboration within the business and with outside participants, such as outsourced bookkeepers, accounting and finance professionals.
These professionals can be instrumental in assisting their clients manage the change to new collaborative computing paradigms. Where accounting was previously viewed as an after-the-fact process, accountability through detailed activity tracking and reporting is now a focus which begins at the front end of the business, and accounting professionals are finding far greater value in helping structure and manage this daily activity in order to deliver greater operational information and insight. Rather than being the last people to know what is happening in the business, accounting professionals are recognizing that their ability to positively impact business performance requires getting “in front of the ball”, initiating process structure, data control and collection which ultimately results in better and more informed decision-making through better and more timely access to more meaningful information.
Businesses at all levels are realizing that new computing paradigms can ease the burdens of collecting and sharing information, yet most small companies need help in determining exactly how to approach this “enabling” of the business and systems. While accountants are also experiencing dramatic change in how they do business, it makes sense for them to embrace the opportunity and recognize that enabling client systems will ultimately allow the accounting professional to work more closely and to deliver more tangible value to their client on an ongoing basis. Online accounting approaches are no longer a fad but are the new reality supporting how many bookkeepers and accountants work with their business clients. Extending access beyond accounting and bookkeeping systems, and incorporating support for operational and line-of-business solutions, is the next step which will bring the accountant closer to the client business, and position both to benefit from deeper collaboration and useful insight.