Many businesses are currently planning to make remote work a permanent option as they transition back into a post-coronavirus climate. Replicon CEO Raj Narayanaswamy discusses the importance of automation in making that jump.
Companies, customers and employees have been subject to a whirlwind of change in the past few weeks as the new normal quickly became abnormal, necessitating a hasty shift to medium- and long-term remote work for project-based organizations. Prior to the current crisis, remote work and telecommuting was still an integral part of a modern mobile and deskless workforce, but never so much a necessity as it is today.
When we spoke to over 150 project-based businesses to understand how they plan to adapt and reorient processes moving forward, however, it was clear that they still see substantial issues around remote work. Thirty-seven percent of C-Level executives believed that they would face issues with forecasting, future project planning and resource planning. Timesheet, billing and payroll errors caused by manual processes (25 percent) also made the list, with tracking remote or WFH employee project time (18 percent) and lacking real-time insight into costs and billing (18 percent) tying in third. It goes without saying that remote work is not without its problems, but being forced to confront each of these issues nearly overnight only exacerbated these concerns. Business leaders are beginning to investigate the next steps for a very different tomorrow.
And reimagining the physical workplace is no cakewalk, either. Even as the U.S. moves to reopen the economy in defined phases, business leaders will face concerns, objections and pushback if they rely too heavily on tactical measures like socially distant workstations and sanitizer pumps to replace the once bustling watercooler. As demand for employee protections rises, project-based organizations are recognizing that despite concerns, remote work may simply be the smartest (and safest) option. A recent PwC report reveals nearly half of CFOs surveyed are currently planning to make remote work a permanent option as they transition into a post-coronavirus climate. To facilitate the switch, these business leaders largely anticipated (48 percent) accelerating automation and other new ways of working.
Digital Transformation: The Way Forward for Project-Based Organizations
Recognizing the importance of a company-wide digital transformation has finally reached the mainstream, and with good reason – it can revolutionize a business before, during and after a crisis when it’s capable of supporting the unique requirements of an organization’s workforce. As business leaders explore the options for automation and digitalization to support remote work and the new normal, here are some ideas worth considering:
Configurable Cloud Capabilities
Businesses relying on legacy systems and manual processes often find themselves trapped between the numerous information silos created by outside vendors, ad-hoc systems and inconsistent metrics. While implementing a legacy ERP or back-end solution may have worked to varying degrees in the past, record-breaking numbers of newly remote workers have introduced access complications, delayed inputs and more – all of which contribute to customer and employee-facing problems downstream, like pay and billing. Visibility into 100 percent of a company’s time is key to helping project-based organizations uncover true services profitability, but when these businesses still rely on incomplete data from siloed systems, they will ultimately reach incorrect conclusions about how profitable they really are.
As the current crisis has illustrated, truly configurable SaaS offerings will be much more critical in defining the speed at which businesses can digitalize while meeting all complex and localized project time-tracking needs. Cloud delivery models allow businesses to maximize critical uptime and support growth as performance requirements increase dramatically – especially remote requirements – and offer project-based organizations the scalability to manage a growing infrastructure as the world of project management drastically evolves. They also often provide built-in redundancy and failover in case of natural disaster, system failure or otherwise; perhaps even more relevant today, as unforeseen circumstances, such as those the world is experiencing today, prove no one can ever truly know what lies ahead.
Modern and Mobile
The remote workforce may very well never return to a pre-coronavirus normal, with vast numbers of employees and companies recognizing the many benefits working from home can offer. Many businesses can speak to the challenges they faced in client billing issues, payroll accuracy, transparency and productivity without mobile-ready capabilities in place for these remote or field-based employees. Without solid mobile tools, everyday operations can quickly become unsustainable. A mobile-enabled enterprise solution can mitigate these challenges by enabling instant visibility into project time, rapid employee adoption and prompt supervisor approvals when working in sync with an organization’s existing ecosystem. These real-time updates enable better decision-making both in and outside a crisis. This only reinforces the importance of enhanced privacy and security controls for employees everywhere while capturing accurate, up-to-date information on ever-present mobile devices.
A Plug-and-Play with the Ecosystem
Disrupting an organization’s existing infrastructure can prove messy and monumentally expensive, but the ability to share critical employee project time and cost data within an organization’s ecosystem – whether it is cloud, on-prem ERP, payroll, CRM or another back-end system – cannot be undervalued. As we’ve established, organizations of all sizes rely on these systems to maintain day-to-day operations without interruption – but not without difficulties. What happens when these organizations leverage a system that doesn’t play nice with their existing ecosystem? They run into challenges that make pay, costing and billing processes dependent on error-prone, delayed, reactive, non-scalable and inflexible project time data. This can wind up costing businesses big time. In today’s uncertain climate, businesses require the ability to seamlessly integrate and share data between multiple complex systems in order to gain real-time visibility into clients, projects, resources and billing. They can’t wait for a three-year or longer implementation cycle – today, businesses need solutions that offer rapid adoption and quick deployment without the risk of breaking existing processes. With effective integration capabilities, they can experience accelerated ROI and ensure the right people can have access to the right information at the right time, right away.
Maximized Resource Productivity
Historically, tracking detailed time accurately against projects, tasks, activities and more has always been a challenge for businesses. When teams are remote, it can be difficult to know what would have been obvious in an office setting. Who is working? What are they working on? Is it being done effectively?
Before, a team member could simply walk over to a co-worker’s desk and ask a question. Now, that’s no longer an option. How can teams and departments across an organization collaborate when isolated at home? Just as relevant for global organizations before the pandemic, knowing who is available with the right skill set for the job can make or break any given project before it even begins.
Real-time visibility into key project metrics such as WIP, utilization, margins and more – plus clean, graphical representations of project data help businesses understand trends within those metrics. Setting both corporate and department-level productivity and billable hour profitability targets will help clearly communicate expectations and help supervisors track work in real time. By analyzing historical data, businesses can anticipate seasonal upticks or downtrends in demand and proactively anticipate the staffing requirements needed in advance.
By enabling project teams to understand skills, resource availability and current utilization, project managers can map high-value resources to high-revenue projects and ensure an overall reduction in bench time or overworked resources across the board.
The numbers speak for themselves: Intelligent project-based organizations are ready to tackle the post-coronavirus world with a digital revolution. The path of modernization can offer stability and security as C-Suite leaders begin forging the path to recovery, and it can help future-proof operations to move forward profitably.