For many businesses and their employees, working from home offices has, due to COVID-19, become a regular part of daily business. “Working from Home” has, so to speak, become a part of “New Normal”. However, this type of work puts several new demands and requirements in place for the businesses and their administrative processes. When employees and managers across departments and functions are working physically disconnected, it’s not given that the processes are geared for this work format. In this blog post, you’ll get a few tips for how to ensure that your administrative processes remain efficient. Remember, slow processes will eventually cost money.
Equipment, access, and communication
An essential precondition for remote work in any case, is obviously that the employees have got the required IT equipment, are online, have access to the business’ IT infrastructure and software solutions as well as the appropriate communication equipment and platforms. I’m assuming that, today, most businesses have got this sorted. Because after all, remote work isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. The new thing is just that more types of employees are now working from home. That’s why it’s important that your setup for establishing remote workspaces easily can be scaled throughout the organization. All of this is the most basic and most obvious when we’re talking facilitation of efficient work from home. Many businesses are indeed also primarily using their resources here, without actually thinking through their processes, and the tools that may have been implemented to support them, with the aim of evaluating them to figure out whether they’re compatible with remote work, if all involved employees are working from the distance. That’s a clear mistake!
Rethink the processes
In my opinion, it’s extremely important to rethink all administrative processes, in order to ensure that the cogwheels are working together in the best possible way, given the new circumstances. In this perspective it’s important to assess the degree of digitization in the given processes. Because, if a process is digitally based and operated then there’s good conditions for making it work efficiently, when the involved hands and feet are working with distance. And no, even though that you’ve connected the employees digitally through the right IT equipment and smart software platforms for communication and sharing information, it doesn’t mean that your processes will become digitally based with the blink of an eye. E-mail systems and various communication platforms are not efficient workflow systems, and they’ll never be.
Expense Management as an example
I’ll use an example from my own home turf: Expense Management. In other words, the process related to handling the expenses that occur on an ongoing basis, when employees are doing their jobs. This process involves the employee who’ve spent the money, the manager who’re approving the spend and the bookkeeper who needs to ensure documentation and correct accounting of the expenses. Many businesses are still taking a manual or pseudo-digital approach to this process. The expense receipts are changing hands between employee and manager and onwards to the finance department. Maybe copies are sent via e-mail and maybe the expense transactions are registered in an Excel sheet. All things being equal, if the people involved in this process are working remotely from each other, the information would probably be shared via e-mail or other communication platforms, like Teams or Slack. This would be highly ineffective, guaranteed. In addition, mail servers would be burdened with unnecessary data.
It’s an example of a process that needs to be rethought in a digital context. This is how it’s done:
1. Focus on the employee
Start by looking at how to make the process support the employees’ actual working conditions. It must be easy to register and deliver information about an expense transaction along with the required documentation that’s needed for bookkeeping – and it needs to be done and finished during the very moment an expense occurs.
2. Resource spend
The employees who’re approving, checking and accounting the expense transaction actually needs to work on the same terms as the employee who’s spending the money. It means that focus should be on working with the transaction only once. Hence it’s important that the digital tool, that’s needed to support the process, can offer the right level of automation and also the option of configuring rule based controls of the transactions, that’ll direct them across different routes in the workflow that’s linked to the process.
The tool that’s used for following the above recommendations should be mobile enabled and app based. It must be based on a true mobile platform, where administrative tasks can be managed and where the automation capabilities mentioned above is built in. This will also ensure that all involved people, like the employee who’s registering the expense, the manager who’s approving and the bookkeeper can work independently of time and place. This is crucial, if they’re working from distance.
Employee initiated expenses occurs all the time and they cover a wide range of expense categories and types of purchases. It also varies how these expenses are paid. Some purchases are paid with a classic cost invoice, others are paid out the employees own pocket, and some are paid with a company card. That’s why it’s important that all payment channels are supported in a digital workflow that runs from purchase transaction to bookkeeping. The business’ specific bookkeeping practice must also be supported. Are there, for example, specific requirements for cost allocation and approval workflow? It could be that expenses, registered and allocated towards a specific project by a specific employee, should be diverted to another approver (e.g. a Project Manager) than the usual approver of the specific employee.
5. Realtime data
The fifth and last point comes in the wake of the 4 previous ones. Because a digital and automated Expense Management process provides an opportunity to obtain full overview of business spend through up-to-date expense bookkeeping. This is done through real-time data flow and ensure that no surprises, that aren’t entered in the books, will surface.
Through these five points, the process related to Expense Management has been rethought. Both in a context where the involved employees are working over distance and in a context that’s digitally based. I’m convinced that this approach also is applicable for other administrative processes, that have become less efficient, when the involved people are working remotely to an increased extent. There’s no doubt that digitization and automation are important components to keep the administrative processes intact.