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How Companies Should Adjust to the New Workplace Reality

Key finance and accounting employees are mostly working from home now, dealing with new distractions, and managing workloads in an entirely different way. The resulting adjustments have put a strain on businesses and professionals alike.

All together, the business world has been swiftly divided between haves and have nots — in terms of both revenue and adaptability.

           A new opportunity for everybody to adapt their finance and accounting activity.

To get a sense of “on the ground” conditions within finance and accounting organizations, we spoke to Aston Carter Account Manager Andrew Honore. His position in the rapidly evolving New York and New Jersey markets give him an interesting perspective to share the various adjustment strategies deployed by a range of businesses.

Where You Were Then Is Where You Are Now
According to Honore, a company’s pre-COVID-19 setup is the starkest dividing line between who’s adjusted well to the new workplace reality and who’s struggled.

“I have seen some companies that didn’t skip a beat when all this happened,” says Honore. “These companies had already adjusted to both the operating rhythm of virtual interactions and using the tools that allow such interactions.”

Unfortunately for some, this means that many companies which had been in the process of a long range overhaul — for example installing a new enterprise resource planning software — have had to pause those efforts and scramble to adjust to the new normal.

Others have completed such a switch already, and now have to adjust to new operating rhythms that come with a remote workforce.

Prioritize Based On Your Situation 
Even if a digital workplace isn’t new for your organization, your volumes, workflows and revenues have probably changed significantly.

So this moment is a new opportunity for everybody to adapt their finance and accounting activity. That’s good news, as it means every business — whether they were set up to handle workplace changes related to COVID or not — has a few things under their control.

“Everybody can take steps to address key concerns,” says Honore. “Whether that’s finding new ways to get up to the minute forecasting and ad hoc reporting, managing aging within a totally different new revenue cycle, reorienting your approach to risk assessment, or investing in better tools for a stay at home workforce.”

With a plate that full, it’s vital for businesses to set priorities based on their specific situation.

Honore walked us through four scenarios:

Scenario 1: Little Workflow Disruption in a Surging Industry
It may seem to an outside observer that businesses in this situation are in great shape. But the speed of new revenue has triggered a ton of necessary adjustments, even in industries that have taken on a massive increase in new orders.

If you’ve got the needed communications infrastructure, but are struggling to keep up with a surge in volume anyway, you may want to bring in new people to leverage the technology you already have. This will provide you better access to real time data and help you build stronger ad hoc reporting flows. Adding granularity to your data-driven insights can increase the precision and responsiveness of your organizational decision-making at a time when major advantages are there for the taking.

“A small investment in expertise can have a major payoff,” says Honore.

Also, to prevent any bottlenecks in your accelerated revenue cycle, you may also want to increase up your transactional space for maximum capacity. And if you can divert new revenue to hiring and onboarding, consider topgrading your talent with finance and accounting candidates who have experience in other industries.

You may also want to consider setting yourself up now for M&A activity in the next couple of months.

Scenario 2: Little Workflow Disruption in a Slowing Industry
You’ve done an excellent job setting yourself up to succeed in a digital-first workplace, but coronavirus has sapped your momentum.

Fortunately, you wouldn’t have gotten to where you are without support from investors. If COVID-19  is the only thing slowing you down, you probably have a runway and some time.

Have you built out a strategy for engaging potential new customer bases?

“When you have great technology already,” says Honore, “you can pivot your finance and accounting staff to forecasting activity, and use your tools as well as possible to find hidden opportunities.”

You may also want to look into agile workforce solutions that can upshift or downshift depending on need. This will allow you to free up cash, positioning you to capitalize on M&A opportunities. While revenue may be down, there is opportunity to grow by gaining market-share.

Focus on scalability with anything you build, and remember that your technology and communications infrastructure may be your strongest asset right now.

Scenario 3: Major Workflow Disruptions in a Surging Industry
If you’re struggling to adjust your pre-COVID-19 systems to a newly heavy volume, you need to fix your workflow pipelines first.

“As volume increases,” says Honore, “it accentuates any pre-existing holes in process.”

Before you spring a leak, consider bringing in a project management expert to provide clarity to your communication and workflow systems. They’ll be equipped to perform needed planning and implementation, through activity such as leading a SWOT analysis of your current communication and workflow systems to assess vulnerability and prescribe customized solutions.

You may also want to invest in communication equipment. Before the virus hit, many workplaces maximized the efficiency of their finance and accounting staff with high-value tools. If your business ran on multiple-monitor workstations and hard-wired software licenses, delivering those tools to your suddenly at-home workforce will be worth the investment.

Increased demand creates opportunity for increased revenue. But a big risk for companies with workflow disruptions in a surging industry is the inability to deliver on customer’s demands. This may lead to the loss of existing customers to competition.

Correcting process gaps with finance and accounting resources will ensure you capitalize on a spike in demand, retain your current customers for the future, and position you to gain market-share from competitors who aren’t delivering.

Scenario 4: Major Workflow Disruptions in a Slowing Industry
Just as COVID-19 struck, you’ve had to pause a long-term initiative, maybe a system upgrade, just as revenues and sales volume took a plunge.

But all is not lost.

Now is a perfect time to evaluate what’s more important, and find areas where you’re less vulnerable.

Have you explored communication technology upgrades?

“From a financial standpoint,” says Honore, ”you’ll want to determine what capital and liquidity you have to make investments in communication, and strike there first.” Any planned investment in long-term software installs can now be moved to shorter term communication hardware and software upgrades.

Relying on Partners for Counsel
While no company in your industry has been immune from the impacts of COVID-19, the decisions you make today will play a pivotal role in the future success of your organization.

Do you have a sound strategy for moving forward with the right finance and accounting talent for your situation?

To tailor your plan to the exact parameters of your new reality, start a conversation today with an Aston Carter expert.