Hidden Profits Blog

Finding the Gold in Your Business

Hidden Profits Author:

Lynda J. Roth

As the president and founding partner of Woodland Hills-based LJR Consulting Services, Lynda advises clients on ways to improve profitability and productivity through both technology and business processes. She also works with companies and private equity firms on the role of information technology in mergers and acquisitions.



Register for


LJR Consulting Services

Email Me

The Real Value of Information Technology

Do you feel like the Information Technology (IT) bills never stop coming?  It seems like there are always upgrades, maintenance costs, new software that must be purchased.  The question becomes ‘What Value Do We Receive From That Investment?’ That is actually a very good question.  Most IT executives would answer that there is almost 100% uptime, business transactions are processed with stunning accuracy and speed, employees have access to recent releases of Office software to better do their jobs, everyone has email with near 100% uptime, response time is quick and everyone has smartphones with email.  All  that is true and important, I mean just think of how the average office worker would do their job without email, MS Office and the standard accounting system used  in business. 

Increase IT value and watch profit soar

However, the value of Information Technology (IT) should go much further than that, especially today.  We have instant connectivity to the internet almost anywhere and from devices that we hold in our hand.  We use those devices to access our personal information instantly while many busy executives still wait until the end of the month and later to access critical business information.  In our personal lives we interact with each other quickly and learn more about each other than ever before with social media. Yet companies still have limited interaction with suppliers and sometimes customers.  

 In order to move to the next level of IT value there are 4 key areas that should be addressed.

  1. Real time information for better informed decision making
  2. Information provided suppliers to improve supply chain and customers in the form of new or add-on products and services
  3. Optimized business operations and back-office from increased use of technology
  4. Innovative interaction and collaboration with suppliers, partners and customers 

In many cases companies already have the technology to add value in these four areas but there is a lack of communication between IT and business and often a lack of innovative thought on the part of both business and IT to address these opportunities.  The reality is businesses that add technology value in these four areas will be the businesses that stand out, attract customers, attract ‘A’ level talent and become more profitable.

I will address each of these value opportunities in subsequent posts.  If you would like an evaluation of how your company can increase value in these areas, call us at 818-709-6583  for a free 90 minute consultation. 

5 Ideas to Utilize Mobile Devices for Business Applications

Almost all corporations today provide mobile devices - smart phones, iPad, etc. to employees.  The question is ‘Are they used for more than just phones, email, Facebook and Twitter?’ There are many business applications for which these devices can be used that increase the value to the business and improve business efficiency and performance.

Here are some types of business applications that can add value to the operation.

1.  Key Performance Indicators (KPI), business alerts, and other business information displayed via mobile device.  This could be any piece of key information that is important to executive management in monitoring business activity.  Some examples are:

  • Daily sales
  • Cash balances
  • Key project alerts
  • Profitability by key customer
  • Manufacturing statistics
  • Crop ratings for agriculture

2.  Purchase order/requisition entry and approval. One of the key reasons that company’s have for not using electronic purchase orders is that it is inconvenient to be at a computer when making a purchase. For industries in which employee’s that need to make purchases and do not easily have access to a computer providing a mobile device application to create and approve purchase orders greatly enhances the efficiency of the company and the AP department.

3.  Purchase Order receipt - for companies such as construction or agriculture that receive product deliveries in locations without computer access, the ability to receive PO via mobile devices reduce manual data entry and provide more accurate inventory control. 

3.  Delivery orders and authorizations for product delivery companies.  Many companies that deliver product such as food, uniforms, beverages, etc.  or provide on-site service such as plumbers, HVAC repair, electronic repair, still print the delivery orders daily for drivers.  Once the product is delivered the customer signs the paper order and often companies then scan those documents into a system for access by customers.  By downloading the orders to mobile devices the addresses can be input to GPS automatically for directions, the actual cost of the delivery or service calculated on the mobile device, customer authorization recorded and the completed order uploaded to the corporate ERP system and made available to customer facing applications.  All this is done with no data entry which can significantly reduce time and cost.

 4.  Customer Orders.  Company’s with sales reps that take orders in the field the entry of the order and contract signing can be competed on the mobile device. 

5.  Customer facing applications - many companies have already added the applications that are already available on the web to mobile devices.

These are just a few ideas on how to use mobile devices to improve corporate efficiency.  If you would like your organization’s systems reviewed  and  opportunities for mobile device applications identified, contact me at 818-709-6583 or by email lynda.roth@ljrconsultingservices.com 

 

To Outsource or Not To Outsource

Filed under: Information Technology, Lean Business, Offshoring, Outsourcing, Uncategorized, business process, lean accounting — Lynda Roth at 10:51 pm on Monday, November 8, 2010

Outsourcing is seen as one of the best and quickest ways to reduce cost.  The popular thought is that you outsource non-core business functions to companies and locations that can do it cheaper than your team can if it is kept in-house.  While I agree that outsourcing is an option to be evaluated, it is not necessarily the panacea that has been suggested.

First, what is meant by outsourcing?

Many think it means using a company that is not in the US to perform a back office or non-core corporate function.  While a lot of outsourcing is done offshore, that is not the only definition of outsourcing.  You can outsource the function to a company in the US. The broad definition of outsourcing is to hire another company to perform internal corporate functions. The term for outsourcing to a company outside of the US is termed Offshoring.

 Next, how much of the function is to be outsourced? 

Outsourcing is generally when an entire department/function like Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable or Information Technology is transferred to another company,  However, outsourcing can be done on selected functions within a larger functional department.  Some examples of partial outsourcing are:

  • Instead of completely outsourcing all IT functions, you can outsource selected development to development firms, or outsource infrastructure maintainence to an infrastructure firm, or outsource data base administration. 
  • In Accounts Payable you can outsource just the payment process to a bank 
  • In Accounts Receivable you can outsource payment receipt to a bank and customer collections to a collection firm.

I have worked with numerous clients in which outsourcing looked like a possible alternative, however, upon assessing the company several key items came to light.

  1. In the majority of cases a large part of the reason the cost of back office business functions was high was due to extremely inefficient and ineffective business processes. This was the result of numerous manual functions sometimes in spite of adequate computer business systems and sometimes because of inadequate computer business systems.
  2. Another major  reason was multiple business systems resulting from corporate acquisitions that were not consolidated onto one system and standard business process
  3. Organization and people are also one of the reasons why companies struggle with many operations that they consider outsourcing,

By addressing these issues, many companies can be competitive with outsourcing options.  By not outsourcing you also don’t have to worry about the disadvantages and loss of control that comes with outsourcing. Finally, if there is still a decision to outsource, it can be done in a more effective manner and thus better ensure success.

If you are interested in having an assessment of your systems and processes contact me at 818-709-6583 or info@ljrconsultingservices.com

Why Create a lean business

Filed under: Lean Business, business process, finance department, lean accounting — Lynda Roth at 3:22 pm on Friday, August 20, 2010

I attended an APICS event last night and the presentation by Robert Fox focused on lean & Six Sigma and why we would want to implement them. Most of us associate ‘lean’ with manufacturing as the concepts which originated at Toyota were focused on the manufacturing process to reduce cost in manufacturing, reduce lead times and improve quality. 

These concepts also apply to non-manufacturing businesses and to the non-manufacturing processes in all business, which I have referred to as the Financial Supply Chain (see my blog posts How to Evaluate the Financial Supply Chain http://www.hiddenprofitsblog.com/how-to-evaluate-the-financial-supply-chain and The Financial Supply Chain http://www.hiddenprofitsblog.com/the-financial-supply-chain).

While in last night’s presentation the concepts were not new, the approach and the reasons were certainly very thought provoking.  Lean processes and going lean are almost always associated with reducing cost.  That of course is a very laudable goal.  Last night the focus was on the goal of increasing throughput or capacity.  Which of course once you reduce waste and time of the process you automatically increase throughput.  We normally do not look at that side of the coin.  In manufacturing, Mr. Fox talked about how increased capacity provided the opportunity to make and sell more products without increasing the costs of production.  We usually think of increasing a capacity with the need to add plant space and/or additional locations machinery and people.  However, if we have reduced waste, thus freeing up capacity we can in fact increase the quantity produced and sold without increasing cost.  This makes the additional products produced very profitable. 

The same is true when we look at non-manufacturing processes or the Financial Supply Chain.  Even though the focus for the last couple of years has been on the slowing economy, layoffs etc., the reality is that many companies are growing.  As companies grow they rarely are evaluating their processes to be efficient.  The workload grows with the company, often faster, and they simply keep hiring staff and increasing office space to manage the workload.  Often as part of this lead times increase.  So what does this look like in the financial supply chain?

The number of AP invoices increases and often the number of late payments increases.  So the AP department grows and everyone scrambles to find ways to make sure that invoices are paid on time. The assumption being that the more people in AP the more invoices can be processed in a timely manner.  This often results in chaos.

As the number of customers increases, the number of AR billings and cash receipts increases.  Often the time to get invoices out to customers increases.  AR personnel are busy with billing and applying payments and they don’t pay attention to collections.  So, often cash inflow slows down.  And of course the number of AR personnel increase to handle the billing and cash receipts.

Slowed billing and payments start to create an imbalance in cash flow so now there becomes an increased reliance on working capital lines of credit, which of course increases interest expense.

Month end close processes become more cumbersome and more accountants are hired in accounting to address all the needs of the close process and management’s increasing need for information. 

Of course you also have the ancillary costs of more office space, additional locations, increase personnel in HR and Payroll and increased management levels.

What would happen if at this point the company embarked upon implementing lean business processes to optimize the financial supply chain? We could increase capacity and throughput in the non-manufacturing processes! The business would be able to grow at the same pace or maybe even faster, without the explosive growth in personnel and cost.  Management would have better information for making decisions which could further enhance growth.  Customers would probably have less complaints which would also further enhance growth.

This has in fact been my experience with many clients.  In my most recent project, the client was planning to double in size, which would have made them almost a billion dollars in revenue with locations all over the US and Mexico. By designing lean processes for AR/Cash Application, Purchasing/AP, HR/Payroll, Budgeting, Capital Assets and Financial Close, they project they will be able to absorb that growth with the current staff levels.  An accomplishment most CFOs would consider impossible. 

If you would like an assessment of how your company could benefit from lean business processes contact us at 818-709-6583 or info@ljrconsultingservices.com