Upgrading Your Digital Business

James Eichmann, Chief Data Officer, Billtrust
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When you build a new house from the ground up, you use new, energy efficient, cost-saving materials. However, if you are updating an older home, you have two choices. Either you can make some cosmetic improvements, such as new siding, paint, and landscaping, or you do some major renovations that include plumbing and electrical work, tearing out drywall, moving walls, adding rooms, and more. Why would anyone even consider these extensive upgrades? The answer is simple–because you will save money in the long run, use fewer resources, have fewer repairs, and enjoy living in your conveniently updated home for a long time.

Businesses need upgrades too, for the exact same reasons. Startups usually begin with automated, digital solutions designed to grow as the company does. Unfortunately, older companies tend to have inefficient methods that rely on paper, spreadsheets, and manual data entry.

So what happens when a company decides to add a few upgrades? These efforts usually start with the marketing team, and they focus on image-enhancing changes, like a sexy new ecommerce website with SEO-optimized content, slick emails, and engaging social media campaigns. Those updates are definitely important, but the back end of the business is usually neglected during digital transitions.

No one is going to stand in the way of a new website or updated branding. But when someone tries to suggest a new software solution or process for departments that are already functioning adequately, there is often a lot of resistance.

Organizations still send a lot of paper out into the world, including invoices, statements, forms, surveys and more. They still make thousands of phone calls to accounting departments. They handle thousands of customer service calls each month. These are very important functions within every organization, but they take resources away from other important tasks. So let us reevaluate how we think about processes and resources within our organizations and make smarter decisions.

The biggest challenges that companies face is seeing that their current processes may be inefficient, costly, or overly complicated. When you look at each and every sale, the more people who have their hands in the pie, so to speak, the more likely that mistakes are being made. However, because these manual processes work, upgrading these back end functions often gets overlooked.

  ​Real upgrades involve rebuilding processes, and sometimes departments, with new tools, best practices, and automated technology solutions   

It’s time to change the way we think about how business works. We need to think in terms of how to make a company more successful. Many companies have automated supply chains. Let’s take that success one-step further by integrating automation into other areas of the organization:

Customer Self-Service Portals: Customer services calls can be reduced significantly when customers have access to their own accounts. The majority of questions can be answered by providing users with access to account, billing, and order information, and online customer service allows you to create a flexible, happier team that can work from anywhere, anytime to provide better support and assistance.

Accounts Payable Infrastructure: An upgraded AP department can automatically receive invoices and send payments without manual data entry in permission-based, secure environment. Comprehensive dashboards give managers the ability to look at all accounts, payments and processes at a glance, providing total visibility.

Accounts Receivables: With automated invoice delivery, electronic delivery options, online payments and automatic cash application, an upgraded AR department can run smoothly with human oversight. When you send invoices faster, they are paid more quickly, leading to improved cash flow, which affects all areas of the business.

Human Resources and Hiring: Keeping employees happy is the way most successful companies retain talented staff and keep them working hard. By upgrading career websites, timesheets, using online project management tools, you will save money and time, and be able to do more for employees with fewer resources.

IT Maturity: When your IT department allocates all of its time and resources to the marketing department, it is not working for the benefit of the company. Integrated back end solutions should be a priority as they require IT resources, input, and an understanding of security implications. Any transition process should ensure automatic and secure data processing between ERPs, banks, credit card companies and other complicated systems.

My advice to CIOs and CTOs looking to upgrade their businesses is to pay as much attention to the back end as you do with your digital marketing initiatives. Look at the processes currently in place, and identify where time and resources can be saved through automation. You will find that every time you make the right upgrade, you’ll not only save money, your employees will be happier as well.

Next, think about how you can serve existing customers better, faster, and with fewer mistakes or pain points with online portals, automated invoicing, and other digital improvements. As your business becomes more customer-centric, your customer satisfaction rates will improve and your business will grow.

Finally, think about how you can improve the experience for potential and new customers. The website design and user experience helps, but there needs to be an infrastructure to support it. The end result will be an outstanding experience from start to finish.

The key thing to remember here is that real upgrades involve rebuilding processes, and sometimes departments, with new tools, best practices, and automated technology solutions. You can’t just slap a coat of paint on an old house and expect the problems to be fixed. You need to be willing to look past the front door, and identify the real challenges that are holding you back from future growth.

Startups come and go, but only the really solid organizations, the ones focused on customers and the ones with leadership that is willing to innovate, grow and adapt to a faster pace, are the ones who will enjoy longevity and success.

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