Every organisation consists of four fundamental components – people, assets, finance, and time. These collaborate to product information, and that information requires governance. At ContinuSys, we use the acronym PAFTCIG to describe how these elements work together to deliver uninterrupted business operations and increase resilience.
All but the smallest companies are typically structured into multiple departments. Department leaders are responsible for their people, assets, finances, and how they allocate project time. As such, each department generates its information.
While this may sound straightforward enough, business operations are becoming increasingly complex and multifaceted. Customer expectations continue to evolve rapidly, driven by the rapid advancement of technology. Employee expectations have also changed in recent years with increasing emphasis on flexible work models.
With these changes come both risks and opportunities. However, many organisations struggle to keep up in a time when the only constant changes. As a result, most department leaders and their teams do not fully understand the goals and processes of other departments. Some departments do not interact with customers at all, while others do not have financial targets of their own, or lack an adequate understanding of critical factors like compliance and information security.
These challenges create information silos, where different departments end up operating in a bubble and are unable or unwilling to share mission-critical information. This can quickly end up stunting business growth, reducing efficiency, and greatly limiting an organisation’s ability to adapt to evolving markets. These problems, in turn, have a detrimental effect on customers and employees alike. More troubling is the fact that these situations can pose governance and compliance risks with far-reaching consequences.
The need for fully integrated business management
Many businesses still rely on email or even verbal conversations or post-it notes for sharing information between departments. Others use different software systems, which may not work well together when it comes to accessing and sharing mission-critical information.
Fully-integrated business management systems (IBMS) seek to break down these information siloes and facilitate seamless interoperability across all key operations. Modern solutions offer centralised databases with role-based access controls hosted in the cloud to ensure complete business resilience and compatibility with today’s distributed, work models. In other words, all employees have access to the same data, provided it is relevant to their roles and workflows.
Moreover, an IBMS ensures that many routine workflows can be fully or partially automated, freeing up time for employees and business leaders to focus on more strategic tasks. In such a scenario, people will no longer need to waste time chasing up emails, catching up in tedious and lengthy meetings, or conducting compliance audits for each department.
An IBMS brings together people, assets, finance, and time management. All of the information generated by these elements goes into a single, centralised database for easier governance.
Managing customers and human resources
Perhaps one of the most common misconceptions about digital transformation is that it is all about technology. Business leaders often approach technology as a way to replace low-skilled workforces and automate routine operations. The reality is that people are, and always will be, the single most important element of any organisation. Instead of being viewed as a way to replace people, technology should be seen as a way to empower employees to do their jobs better and deliver an improved service to customers. In other words, it is time to start looking at technology as an enabler of better business, rather than a replacement.
Your employees are your most valuable resource, which is why we believe in distinguishing them from other business assets. That being said, from tracking applicants to onboarding to allocating work roles and tasks, managing people at scale can become a significant burden, especially when factoring in distributed work models.
HR management software should help streamline the hiring and onboarding process, make it easy for employees to book time off, and help administrators keep track of the various roles and responsibilities across the business. With the rapid rise of the freelance gig economy, the system should ideally be able to accommodate external human resources too.
No organisation exists in a bubble. Every company has a unique supplier portfolio consisting of critical strategic suppliers and long-tail suppliers. Given the rapidly increasing complexity of today’s supply chains, it is especially easy to lose oversight of the latter. In many industries, supply chains have become ungovernably large for those relying on manual processes alone.
Supplier management solutions help procurement teams manage their vendor relationships at scale. They can automate the onboarding and maintenance of long-tail suppliers, which are those your company only does business with on occasion. This can reduce maverick spending, minimise supply chain risk, and free up time for procurement to focus on strategic suppliers.
For any business to be successful in the ‘Age of the Customer’, sales, marketing, and support teams must achieve seamless interoperability to ensure a frictionless customer experience. The marketing team needs to target the right people, sales teams must remember and contact the right leads, and support teams need to address customer concerns promptly.
Customers have multiple points of contact, and the buyer journey must be viewed as a holistic one in which sales, marketing, and support work together. Customer relationship management (CRM) software is vital for making that possible, especially for larger businesses with lengthy sales cycles or those operating in B2B sectors.
Managing all business assets in a unified platform
Even the smallest businesses comprise lots of moving parts from mission-critical systems to ancillary ones that could still present a single point of failure if they stop working. Assets may include physical or digital ones, with a strong emphasis on the latter being more service-based companies. However, physical assets remain vitally important in sectors like manufacturing, agriculture, and healthcare. Digital assets, on the other hand, include everything from software applications to data systems to virtual machines hosted in the cloud. All these assets need full oversight and management, as do the facilities housing them. Without proper asset management, even a small problem can lead to widespread and long-lasting disruption.
Enterprise asset management software (EAMS) helps organisations track and manage their assets across portfolios of practically any size. This is especially important for big enterprises, which may have thousands or even millions of assets ranging from manufacturing hardware to computing systems to transportation fleets.
Asset management starts with building a complete database of all your assets, regardless of whether they are physical or digital. Whether it is equipment leased to clients, internal assets, or technical infrastructure, maintaining oversight of everything is essential for limiting the single points of failure and increasing business resilience. With the right software on the side, you can also define interdependencies between assets, manage workflows, and set up reports to boost efficiency and ease the management burden.
While requirements may vary widely, all assets need management. Manufacturing hardware must be proactively maintained to keep downtime to a minimum and ensure health and safety. Computing systems, whether physical or virtual, must be kept up to date with the latest security fixes. Other assets, such as those used in highly regulated sectors like healthcare, need to be regularly reviewed for compliance with safety rules. The list goes on.
Asset management should enable predictive maintenance by making it easy to schedule tasks like equipment checks and software updates. The goal should be to resolve issues before they happen, or at least before they cause severe disruption. Planned maintenance can also help reduce the unnecessary expenses associated with break/fix support models. Together, these benefits improve business resilience by keeping things running smoothly.
Assets also include facilities themselves, such as warehouses, office premises, data centers, and shop floors. Just like any other asset, these also require monitoring and maintenance to ensure compliance with everything from workplace safety rules to energy usage. This might sound easy enough if your business operates out of a single location, but things become much more complicated for companies with multiple branches and other facilities.
Facilities management software simplifies routine operations like scheduled maintenance and keeps tabs on other critical matters, such as premises security and energy consumption.
Managing finances with consolidated reporting
From revenue reports to tax returns to budgeting and forecasting, there is little or no room for error when it comes to business finance. As such, relying on manual accounting processes, such as spreadsheets, is a woefully inefficient approach and one that is highly susceptible to human error. On top of that, most financial data is highly sensitive and is subject to strict legal requirements, such as Australia’s Consumer Data Right (CDR) regulation.
Financial matters concern every business department and operation, albeit in different ways. Procurement teams are always looking for ways to streamline routine operations like invoicing and payment. Sales teams must do everything they can to safeguard customer financial data. In many businesses, every department has to work within a predefined budget, which makes clear the need for having a dependable way to optimally allocate expenses.
Accounting software helps businesses manage revenue and accelerate closing while staying compliant with local and global accounting standards. It is essential for giving financial decision-makers complete visibility over their incomes and expenses with consolidated reporting. When it comes to filing taxes or earnings calls, these reports should provide all the information required, without having to manually add up invoices and receipts.
Modern accounting solutions also make invoicing much easier, to the benefit of both suppliers and customers. For example, you can generate clear and professional invoices and manage recurring billings, and trace payments all from the same system. No more will payments end up being delayed due to otherwise trivial administrative issues.
The financial future of any business hinges greatly on its ability to allocate funds and budget appropriately. Yet many businesses still lack real-time oversight over financial matters, which is why things like earnings calls often take too long and budgets are not allocated efficiently.
Given the need for greater business agility, leaders must have access to the information they need to make financial decisions quickly. If, for example, a department is urgently requesting additional funding to capitalise on a new market opportunity, the last thing you want is for the decision to be delayed just because you need to wait several weeks for the relevant data.
Having access to real-time financial reports, in addition to data collected over specific periods, lets decision-makers home in on specific trends. That way, they can maintain accurate financial forecasting to better position themselves for future growth and weather unexpected setbacks. Moreover, today’s financial forecasting systems go far beyond educated guesswork.
Forecasting is vital for preparing for likely future eventualities based on real-world data and insights. By drawing upon past and present data, newer solutions based on machine learning models can make accurate forecasts. Business leaders can use these reports in a wide range of situations, whether to impress potential investors or facilitate mergers and acquisitions.
Managing and tracking time spent on projects
The phrase ‘time is money might be overused, but it is undoubtedly true in a business context. Yet many projects end up drawing on for longer than they should, and poor time management is often the culprit. To manage any project efficiently, teams need access to the right data and have a thorough understanding of what they need to do. Only then can they get an accurate idea of the number of people-hours each team member needs to put in.
Although this might sound obvious, mastering project and task management is quite another matter. However, by getting it right, teams can reduce the risk of burnout and keep the amount of rework down to a healthy minimum. This is vital for both employee and end-user satisfaction alike.
Project management software has exploded in popularity in recent years, in part due to the rapidly increasing complexity of many business projects. The pressure to deliver new products and services quickly and efficiently is also rising, especially in fast-moving sectors like software development. Today’s increasingly service-based economy demands that project teams work faster than ever to deliver results that are accurate, predictable, and profitable. After all, today, almost every company is a software company
By integrating project management into your IBMS, project teams will have access to all key data at their fingertips. In turn, this helps them allocate time, funds, and other resources more efficiently while ensuring that expectations align with reality. Today’s project management tools can also facilitate better communication and collaboration across distributed teams. This has become a must-have in a time when many project leaders find themselves coordinating teams spread all over the world across multiple time zones.
Complex projects invariably need to be broken down into individual tasks with goals that are more readily attainable and, above all, relevant to the teams working on them. There are many proven ways to break down larger projects and manage multiple tasks in parallel. Examples include Gantt charts and Kanban boards, which have been in use for decades but are now digitised to ensure greater accessibility and efficiency. With integrated calendaring, project leaders can also keep tabs on deadlines, schedule alerts, and set up automated reporting.
Circling back to the people aspect of business, project management software also helps you allocate your human resources with respect to people’s time and availability. This also gives project leaders and their teams complete visibility into individual roles and responsibilities. After all, the success of any project depends on people knowing exactly what they need to do and ensuring they have enough time to do it.
Breaking down siloes by working together
Every business role and department depends on the four fundamental components we have covered above – people, assets, finance, and time. As such, it stands to reason that all these components must work together to create a truly collaborative environment. In other words, teams need ways to organise their workloads, access all necessary information, and manage strategic initiatives at scale.
In the old days, collaboration took the form of formal in-person business meetings, impromptu gatherings by the water cooler, and the occasional exchange of information via a pen drive or email.
The rise of cloud computing has, of course, transformed these traditional work models beyond measure. Remote work, for example, is now firmly established. Moreover, businesses of all types and sizes, from the smallest startups to global enterprises, routinely work with freelance gig workers, crowd-sourced workforces, and full- or part-time employees working from home.
The traditional office environment has been relegated to a niche, forcing businesses to adopt more flexible and scalable work models. Indeed, some companies, where their industry allows it, have forgone the traditional office altogether to operate entirely online. Cloud collaboration software makes this possible in a way that disparate communication tools like email or instant messaging apps simply cannot.
If your business still relies heavily on employees sharing information via email, then there will no doubt be ample room for improvement. For a start, inboxes are often overflowing with spam and other irrelevant messages, making it difficult to find the really important information. Using a disparate range of real-time communication channels, such as instant messaging and social media is hardly convenient either, especially when it comes to coordinating projects. In such situations, people can even end up spending more time chasing up communications than working on their actual projects.
Integrated collaboration tools offer convenience and security by keeping all tasks, messages, and informational assets in one place that employees can access over the web. For example, you can convey ideas with bullet lists, keep track of conversations with intuitive threading, and hold one-to-one or group video and audio conferences. Any collaboration tool worth its salt will also feature easy drag-and-drop file-sharing and integration with online storage.
Focus and structure
A hallmark of a dysfunctional collaborative environment is cases where team members must spend time trying to find the best way to get in touch with their colleagues instead of communicating with them. However, with the right collaboration tool, all project-related data and communications are kept in one place, giving team members a better understanding of what everyone else is doing. That way, people can stay focussed on their tasks, rather than having to spend time chasing up emails or being bombarded by notifications from several different apps.
Getting a holistic view of all your operations
Every business process, as well as the connections between them, generates information. That information is itself an asset and the most important one of all. People create information during their day-to-day routines. Other assets generate information in the form of system logs. Finance is one of the most information-heavy business functions of all. Time-tracking software creates information in the form of activity logs and deadline statuses. The interdependencies between these functions also create a raft of information from chat messages to file shares.
The explosion of data in recent years has brought many larger enterprises into the petabyte era. The age of big data is now in full swing, where data sets have become so large that they are impossible to make sense of through manual means alone. But before we get into the governance of this information, we first need to understand how that information is generated and how it relates to business performance.
Despite the undeniably essential role of data in driving informed business decision-making, a huge amount of potentially valuable data still exists in a vacuum. This is the dark data, which remains unused for analytics and insights. Sometimes, business leaders do not even know the data is there in the first place, which means it is not likely to be adequately protected either. Dark data is a particularly serious concern (as well as a major opportunity) in established enterprises, which often have legacy systems that make access and governance difficult.
Many businesses, particularly large enterprises with multiple branches, have fallen into the silo mentality. These operational siloes mean that different teams are unable or unwilling to share information. Although these siloes are often down to issues at the leadership level, disparate technology systems may themselves be to blame. For example, if each department uses a completely different set of applications and databases, then sharing information will always be more difficult.
Such an environment results in data siloes, where inconsistencies are practically inevitable. For example, if sales and marketing teams use different customer databases, then there is a high likelihood of inconsistencies arising between them. In these cases, it might be hard to tell which information is the most up-to-date and relevant. To overcome this problem, businesses need one centralised database that serves a single source of truth (SSOT) for everyone.
Information exists in many different forms. Databases contain structured data sets formatted in a standardised way that is ready for analytics and inherently easier to manage and govern. These databases may include customer contact information, financial records, or any other mission-critical information.
However, the vast majority of data exists in an unstructured form. This includes most multimedia content, user-generated content like chat messages and call recordings, and scanned documents.
All these informational assets, regardless of their form or format, must be managed. Document management systems (DMS) serve as centralised repositories, or digital filing cabinets if you will, that are easily searchable and accessible to everyone who has the required clearance.
Maintaining control and oversight at scale
People, assets, finance, and time are all resources that generate information. That information is the fuel that drives informed decision-making and makes it possible to automate repeatable tasks and workflows. But without proper governance, the information is practically useless. In other words, much like crude oil, it needs to be refined before it can be properly utilised. Once you have all business-critical information in the same place, it is much easier to leverage it for insights through the use of AI-powered business intelligence software too.
Proper governance comprises total information ownership and control, security, compliance, and privacy. Once you have successfully addressed these key areas, you should be ready to start unlocking the true value of your business data.
Information governance (IG) is critical for reliably achieving objectives, addressing uncertainty, and acting with integrity. Some information is enormously valuable from a finance perspective, while other information is highly sensitive and could wreak havoc if it were to fall into the wrong hands. If information is the resource, then governance is what you do with that information and how you look after and control it.
The first step to take in any IG strategy is to categorise and classify the information in your care. Every organisation has business-critical information, in which case losing it due to a cyberattack or other disaster could have catastrophic consequences. Some information, such as payment data, personally identifiable information (PII), and healthcare records, is highly sensitive and regulated. These assets need additional protections, including encryption and multifactor authentication (MFA) to ensure they are kept safe from prying eyes.
Risk management is another key area of governance. Every operation carries a degree of risk, and while you cannot expect to eliminate risk, there are many things you can do to take it down to an acceptable level. For example, business continuity and risk management solutions help you streamline backup and disaster recovery. This ensures the continuation of business processes following natural disasters, hardware failures, and ransomware attacks.
The compliance landscape has never been more complicated, especially for enterprises doing business in different jurisdictions around the world. For example, if you hold data belonging to citizens of the EU, you must be fully compliant with the rules of GDPR. This includes asking for explicit permission before collecting personally identifiable information, complying with data retention rules, and taking adequate security and privacy safeguards. Although GDPR shares some things in common with Australia’s Privacy Act of 1988, it is much broader in scope and gives consumers far greater control over their data.
Many jurisdictions have industry- and operation-specific compliance regulations as well, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in the US, which sets strict legal standards for financial reporting.
Every organisation faces rising pressure to consolidate planning, departments, and business-critical functions across increasingly complex environments.
By achieving these goals, important tasks will not be missed, there will be less need for rework, and employees can spend more time focussing on the most important elements of their roles.
With such a level of integration, it will be easier to meet the evolving needs of customers, sustain high performance, and grow and mature as an organisation.
How can ContinuSys Help?
ContinuSys is built on the concept of uninterrupted business operations. Our platform offers a suite of integrated web and mobile apps that seeks to break down operational siloes and foster seamless collaboration and communication throughout your business. Our solution helps you drive innovation forward while increasing resilience and future-proofing your business for the uncertain times ahead.