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September 18, 2008


Mark Boulton

Chris raises a good point about how we invest our money in the current climate. But for me, this doesn't just apply to cash in the bank but also in the organisation itself. Which areas of the business should companies continue to invest in or look to make savings in these torrid times?

In a downturn the focus is often on cutting the marketing budget as a so-called 'easy option' to protect the short term P&L, leaving companies wide open to competitors who keep these budgets intact. Access has always been very marketing-orientated and views such downturns as an opportunity. It sees marketing as a good, solid investment. I would suggest other businesses do the same.

With this in mind, time and effort would be much better spent on improving operational performance and efficiency. Most companies realised a long time ago that they need to be on top of their cash flow, credit control, stock, utilization rates and so on to remain competitive, and most companies manage these elements fairly well. However, there are some areas where I feel many companies, and in fact UK businesses in general, lag behind.

I believe focusing on improving customer management and service levels is money well spent. After all, customers are the very reason we're all in business. Better levels of customer care mean higher customer retention rates and more revenue per customer. So why do so many companies still offer poor service levels when there are lots of very affordable options out there to help them raise their game?

Another area where many companies fall behind is in automating business processes to improve all-round efficiency. And yes, I know, you'd expect me to say that working in the technology sector. But it never fails to surprise me that so many companies with older systems still work within their old manual processes with all the errors and efficiencies carried over. Newer systems with workflow functionality can help introduce processes that ultimately will help increase profitability; it cuts out unnecessary admin for a start. Savings made this way will help businesses to be more competitive and will have long term benefits that go way beyond a short term cut in the marketing budget.

So, all you MD's and FD's out there, leave those marketing budgets alone and take a good, hard look at how you can improve your organisation's performance to see you through the downturn.

Chris Tossell

BPM – It’s fundamental!

I take on board what Mark is saying about keeping marketing budgets intact (of course, as our Chief Marketing Officer, he has his own to protect!) but he certainly makes a valid point. So, leaving his marketing budget to one side for a moment, I want to ask a couple of fundamental questions of all business owners and managers – do you have a set of readable, well defined and documented business management processes for key areas of your business? If you were honest, might it not be true to say that you have a pretty good idea what they do in Sales Ordering but you don’t really know the processes that go into making it happen?

Business Process Mapping using the right tools is a relatively easy task to do. What you should NOT try to do is write it all down in words. You would be amazed how quickly you would run out of ink! It has to be done pictorially in diagrams that are easy to understand and where the processes can be followed. So often I hear our consultants remark, having been on site, that once they have established the process flows, the management there were often surprised - not only at the complexity but more importantly the level of redundancy that had been built into the system by staff who ‘thought they were doing the right thing’. In any business that has not taken the time recently to examine their processes, I can almost guarantee that there will be savings to be made in doing so - in terms of both time and costs.

There are consultant and proprietary software packages out there to help you or you can do it yourself using a tool like Visio - all you have to do is select a cross flow diagram template and you are set to go. Consultants in our channel are trained to use the Rummler Brache or swimlane method. So, my advice is get a look at those business processes and see what savings can be made. Now I come to think of it I should get right on to this myself, starting with our marketing department! Mark….

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