I don't need Integrated Systems... my staff love typing everything twice!

Said nobody... ever!

Well they might not have said it in those words but actions speak louder than words! So often we've seen how quickly a board of directors will approve the recruitment of yet another office administrator, adding on average about £15,000 per year to the labour bill. Yet when faced with a proposal from a software company like Hyperext to integrate their existing information systems and drive efficiencies which allow the existing admin team to easily cope with the demands of the business, they have trouble committing to a one-off cost of just £10,000. The arithmetic is pretty simply... in just 4 years that wrong decision will have cost them £50,000 and that's before you take into account any accruals for employment liabilities.

I believe this inability to commit to technology stems from a fundamental lack of understanding of what Systems Integration means and more importantly what the benefits are. The trouble with 'systems integration' is that it's one of those 'techy' phrases that few non-technical people fully understand or appreciate. This article will illustrate some common business scenarios with and without integrated systems that produce contrasting outcomes. Below are 3 examples of real world scenarios where Integrated Systems deliver a range of benefits including; massive increases in productivity and efficiency, improvements in customer service and ultimately business profitablility:

Scenarion 1 - Customer Order Input

Without Integration

David Dumbass is the Service Manager and Owner at Dumbass Engineering Support Services and he's a really busy guy, spinning lots of plates, keeping his engineers busy and his customers happy. Trouble is he's totally stressed out because every time a new job arrives via email from one of his demanding customers he has to print out the email then type the details of the job into his Job Management System. Thing is he's been so busy on the phone dealing with a couple of issues that the emails have built up in his inbox and he hasn't noticed that a couple of these emails are from his biggest customer and they are for emergency response jobs! So he prints them off first and quickly types them into the Job Management System and assigns them to the next available engineers. Problem solved! Well, not quite... because he now needs to spend the next 20 minutes typing the other jobs in out of sequence and let's face it... while he's typing new jobs in he's not managing! Regardless Stuart carries on doing his best but as he gets busier he starts to rush the typing and starts to make more mistakes... engineers start going to the wrong address, jobs are wrongly prioritised and eventually customers start to get let down. Solution... Stuart employs a new Office Administrator to deal with all the mundane typing that he simply doesn't have time for. So in comes Mandy... all happy in her new job for about 2 weeks before she realises that she is just a robot, typing information received in emails into the Job Management System. She sticks it out for a few months in which time Stuart's efforts are paying off and sales are up 20% since last quarter. They're flying... until suddenly Mandy drops the bombshell that she's got another job and she's giving Stuart a week's notice. Well you can imagine Stuart's stress levels are going through the roof wondering how the hell he's going to keep on top of things until he gets another £12k a year robot! 

With Integration

Cameron Clever is the Service Manager and Owner at Clever Engineering Support Services and he's a pretty busy guy, spinning plates, keeping his engineers busy and his customers happy but he likes to get out the office and call in on his customers from time to time to see how they're getting on and explore any new opportunities to provide more service. Fortunately Cameron was clever enough to invest a few thousand in systems integration which means that most of the Works Orders he receives in email are automatically entered straight into his Job Management System which in turn automatically assigns each job to the most relevant engineer based on capability, availability and proximity to the job location. In the event that any new job request received in email is not successfully imported Cameron is alerted by text message and can then manually override the job entry using his mobile, tablet or desktop device. Simples! So as Cameron grows his business he only needs to invest in more 'fee earners' i.e. engineers and doesn't need to worry about his office staff getting bored of typing information out of one system into another.  

 

Scenario 2 - Sales Invoice Generation

Without Integration

Jane Puton is responsible for the bookkeeping at Slowcoach Haulage. The company's billing policy is to generate an invoice for each load for each customer and since the company runs 20 wagons that can carry up to 52 pallet loads in each there is no shortage of billing to be done. Slowcoach Haulage have a Traffic System that they record all the jobs on and once each load is delivered it becomes billable. So each morning when Jane comes in to work she logs onto the Traffic System and pulls up the report for the previous day's deliveries which she sends to the printer before heading off to make a brew. Jane then spends the next 4 hours painstakingly typing the invoicing information into Sage Accounts before printing out half a tree worth of invoices, tediously marrying each up to the respective proof of delivery paperwork.

 

With Integration

Jessica Jolly has a part-time job keeping on top of the bookkeeping at Streamline Haulage. Jessica only works 20 hours each week splitting her time between checking the automated billing that flows seamlessly from their Traffic Management System into their Xero Online Accounting Software, keeping an eye on the automated bank reconciliation in Xero, scanning in her Purchase Invoices which are automatically converted to text then simply linked to the relevant purchase order.

 

Scenario 3 - Customer Feedback

Without Integration

Daniel Drag is an administrator at Longway Training Services. One of the tasks he enjoys most every Monday is collecting all the course evaluation forms completed by the 500+ candidates they trained the previous week. Daniel gets great job satisfaction from laboriously working through the mountain of paperwork which he diligently types into the Course Evaluation Master Spreadsheet. This is an important exercise because it is used to monitor the performance of their Trainers and ensure the training was relevant to the candidates. Fortunately Daniel is quite a fast typist and provided he doesn't get too many distractions, he can usually get through all 500 or so evaluation forms within about 2 days. 

With Integration

Max Datum is an administrator at Speedy Training Services. He has quite a varied skillset which he puts to good use throughout the working week. One of his weekly tasks is to gather all the course evaluation forms from the previous week's training activities. Speedy is quite an impressive business delivering health and safety training to an average of 750 candidates each week. Fortunately for Max the course evaluation forms are laid out in a scan friendly format so all he has to do is load them on the scanner and press start. The scanning software recognises the barcode on the paperwork and automatically converts the ticks in the scoring boxes into meta-data which is then automatically appended to the Course Evaluation section of their CRM system. The Trainer Performance and Course Relevance graphs are now fully updated with the previous week's data all while Max has been busy booking candidates onto courses for the coming weeks and months.