There's been no greater time in the last five years to really take a look at our businesses and be able to strategically view our future. In our relationships with top firms' executive offices, we're seeing many trends start to emerge as the recovery takes hold.
- Growth. As we're starting to grow again, we seem to be adding a lot of employees. Are they all going to value added positions? In many cases, we're finding firms didn't invest in business process optimization, which is mapping your current processes and improving them, reducing the effort and manual steps, and improving the quality of what you do. Many companies are looking at business process projects now to streamline operation, and as revenue grows, the expense line can remain flat.
- Risk Mitigation. Business continuance planning is again becoming a relevant topic with the recent tornados in the Midwest, a Tsunami in the Eastern Rim/Africa/ India, and power outages across the U.S. Many firms, especially those with Sarbanes Oxley compliance regulatory issues and diverse global operations, are particularly vulnerable as outages anywhere could affect the customer service levels.
- Consolidation. Recently, many businesses have acquired other firms and/or divested parts of their businesses. We're currently involved with several firms that now have begun to really consolidate business processes, systems, software, and networks to provide better service and reduce the overall cost of the system. In the past five years, they haven't gleaned all the value from the synergy of the acquisition. Look at the State of Illinois: it has more than 20 different e-mail systems in its 56 departments, more than 100 different financial systems, a lack of standards across the enterprise, and astronomical support costs. The state has brought in a couple of the largest consulting firms in the world to make recommendations, but with all of the budget issues, they can't spend money now to save money in the future. Many private sector firms have been in similar mode. Now is the time to start spending money to make money.
- Strategic Planning. As many firms have been up and down in unpredictable market conditions, the focus has been on a tactical mode. Firms are making small tactical investments that, in the long run, prove to be much more costly than a strategic approach. We recently performed an assessment with a client on its internal processes. What we found was astonishing to them. They had more than 20 systems with customer data and little integration between them. All of these projects were customer related, but no one had ever tied them together as they cut across several departments. We recommended a strategic business plan to identify the needs of the customer-facing departments and how the current processes need to change to streamline. The savings from doing it strategically will result in more than $200,000 annually and provide an unparalleled level of customer service from where they are today. IBI