Systems are smarter today than ever before. Yet, at financial institutions everywhere, there are still employees working from paper reports daily. Technology has the ability to provide snapshot data at a moment’s notice for review, but your users still use processes that create work for themselves and others in the institution. Efficiency is not always about shiny new tools and robust software solutions. Very often, you already own the shiny, robust tools needed to operate efficiently… you just need someone in the organization to point them out.
Stop and think: when was the last time you walked around your organization and really looked at the processes and procedures taking place? Do those procedures make sense? Is there a valid reason for processing transactions, adjustments, or GL entries the way you do? When questioned about seemingly inefficient processes, do your employees give answers like, “We’ve always done it that way,” or, “I was told to do it this way.”?
If having an efficient organization is part of your strategic plan, process review should be somewhere in your tactical plan. It might not be realistic for your executives to visit each department, but someone on the team should be tasked with the responsibility. In many organizations, a back-to-basics approach can uncover many opportunities to use the systems at your disposal more efficiently and in the way they were meant to be used.
Start at the beginning – unravelling existing processes by asking these questions:
- Why do you process this way?
- Who trained you this way?
- How long has this been your procedure?
- Has the process been modified since converting to the current system? (Not necessarily the core, but whatever system used in the procedure.)
The answers to these questions can be very eye-opening and can help you to uncover processes that have been in place at your institution since the days of punch cards. These kinds of processes are adapted over the years, generally by adding manual work, as regulations change, thus forcing your employees to work harder.
Once you understand the current process and why it is done the way it is, you can begin to rebuild the process using the existing technology and knowledge available to you. Do so by reaching out to your support channels, researching system documentation and knowledge bases, asking your peers, researching list serves, taking training classes or hiring experts to help implement the process using the tools that are already available to you.
It may turn out that there is a valid reason manual work has been done in the past. Take this opportunity to add a new shiny tool to eliminate the manual work, as long as the new tool does not add manual work in another area. Be sure to conduct an in-depth review of any processes and procedures the new tool is expected to replace or impact, this will help to reduce the amount of work-arounds that occur later.
Challenge long-standing, institution-wide policies which necessitate the need for manual processes and procedures. Review any policy that is directly responsible for a manual work-around in the system. Determine if it is truly a policy or just a procedure that has been construed as a policy over the years. Often policies are put in placed based on an auditor’s interpretation of the system’s capability. Before putting a manual process in place, or approving that a manual process continue, check with the experts who support you. The auditor’s know the regulations, but they may not be experts on your software. Reach out to other institutions in your peer group to see if they have similar policies.
Continue your progress by asking your employees for suggestions on improving their day-to-day processes. Allow these suggestions to move forward as this encourages future participation. Become an agent of change for your organization and it will work harder and smarter for you.