Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Bet You Don’t Get IT !

Last week’s submission addressed why organizations fail to reap the true benefits of implemented technology. After thousands, if not millions of dollars of investment they are marginally better off than they were before the implementation of technology. Essentially what they have done is put technology over bad business processes, the resultant – speeding up bad business… faster and faster.

The mindset of these organizations, sadly enough, dates back to the 18th and 19th century. You guessed it, the Industrial Revolution! The Industrial Revolution was kicked off in agriculture, manufacturing and transportation, through the introduction of steam power. No longer was human effort so critically needed, now machines did the lion’s share of the work. Tirelessly the machines outstripped people in its production capabilities. It was soon realized that making the machines go faster yielded greater production. Then better faster machines were built that further increased the process. Dr. Stephen Covey refers to these productivity gains as “output was a product of how much you can lubricate the process”.

In case you haven’t noticed, the world has moved on, very much since those days of steam power. Although, we are in the age of Intellectual Capital, the era of process reexamination, sadly enough, much of the world have Industrial Revolution mindsets. Many years ago I visited an organization that had recently purchased an ERP system. Through the implementation on their big beefy hardware, the users found the system deathly slow. At the time the vendor said, it’s your equipment. After many iterations of increasingly larger and more powerful hardware, without a sign of increased output, the CIO opted to bring in the hardware vendor. After days of analysis by the hardware vendor it was determined that the “software was poorly written”.

Somehow we are sold on the notion that the next release or the ‘advanced’ product training will yield better results. Sadly that is not the case. It is simply the mantra of those with a 19th century mentality! What is needed is a critical objective understanding of the business process to identify inefficiencies. In his book The Definitive Drucker, Peter Drucker makes the statement “If it ain’t broken, break it”. I feel the statement Drucker is making isn’t to simply go through organizations with a slash, burn and rebuild mentality. But rather to examine every business process, critically examine it in light of technology and new Insightful Thought, and then make changes. As an example, changing how your office orders coffee sugar will NOT have a great overall bottom line impact. However, changing how you do something like AR Management will.

After writing the last post, I stumbled on some research done by an independent body and published in Credit Today magazine. The article entitled “Formal Credit Department Training Programs Missing at Most Corporations”, made it blazingly clear that organizations spend a ton of money on hardware, software and go lean on product training and process training. The author made the following statement:

“Training is more critical than ever. Not only are technology and automation changing the way receivables are managed, but the regulatory and legal environments have witnessed significant changes since the turn of the millennium. On top of all this, we are at a point in the business cycle where cash flow and risk management are under an enormous amount of scrutiny”.

“Despite these factors, 77 percent of the respondents to Credit Today's recent Credit and Collection Training Survey indicated their firms did not have a formal training program for credit and collections.”

The survey presented that 89% of the sample organizations spent less than $1,500 per year on business process training, how credit and collections is changing and the tools needed in the 21st century to be successful. Organizations today expect sterling receivable agings and tremendous cash flow from a staff that have little or no credit collections training. This makes no sense! To put this into perspective, just because I have a saw and know how to use it – doesn’t make me a cabinet maker! Would you go to a dentist who has all the equipment, and training on the equipment, but no formal training and testing in dentistry? I bet not!

I feel that time has come to stop buying all the new ‘widgets’, all the new snake oil remedies and get back to basics. The basic question is “Are my staff properly trained in Credit and Collections?”, “Are my staff aware of and using all the latest techniques, in light of the current laws and economic situation?”

Face it, the newest widget isn’t going to do it for you, nor will all the training on how to use it. Where you will reap huge benefits will be in your core understanding of the process and what you need to achieve given the limitations. So go and get the training you need, the core training to be the Credit and Collections professional, and then be the Drucker in your organization, and break then rebuild those Industrial Revolution style processes.

No comments: