A focus on time recording & billing systems can significantly boost productivity and provide much-needed protection for your bottom line.
Time is money, and cash is king as the well-worn sayings go. With Trustees, Corporate Services Providers and Fund Administrators facing challenges on many fronts in the current environment, maintaining peak efficiency is critical. Accordingly, technology will be a focal point of efficiency reviews and the systems which have a direct impact on revenues, cash flow, billing and payment are of particular importance as organisations strive to maintain liquidity. One of the sometimes-overlooked aspects of operations technology are the Time Recording and Billing systems. This brief article will touch on how technology issues in TRB systems may arise and their potential impact on an organisations’ finances.
Time recording and billing technology solutions are now business-critical for modern organisations. Where once processes and calculations might have been done manually using complex arrays of spreadsheets in combination with word documents and mail merges, the need for operational efficiency in industry has resulted in many organisations adopting such technology. This has been driven in part by fixed-fee pricing models becoming more common in industry, which has in itself meant providers using these models are needing to turn to efficiency gains in order to maintain margins.
Despite the adoption of the TRB technology however, it is a reality that many providers continue to operate using complex patchworks of disparate legacy systems. These systems can be held together with bespoke integrations which can be challenging to maintain at best and damaging at worst.
The impact of this convoluted technology infrastructure is generally that staff may spend a lot of time and effort working across platforms and needing to manually key data into systems which are sometimes not fully configured to ensure the high levels of data accuracy required for finance purposes.
The high workloads which result, accompanied by the variety and complexity of modern fee structures and service agreements used in industry, often leads to issues in mis-keying and re-keying data, duplicating data across systems, skipping required actions and using manual, ‘off-system’ or Excel-based workarounds.
Time recording and billing - The direct link between technology and financial performance
These issues can of course be incredibly costly when they relate to time recording and billing systems.
The most critical result of these issues is revenue leakage where potentially billable time is not accurately recorded in timesheets against specific client jobs. This typically results in clients being under-invoiced for work completed and billable, thereby lowering revenues.
We also encounter technology and systems issues causing delayed or even missed invoicing. Timesheets for example may be inaccurate or require additional review or reconciliation, which can delay the raising of invoices. This can lengthen the cash conversion cycle which can trigger cash flow issues, lower working capital levels and even incur additional interest costs from needing to draw on working capital financing.
Data inaccuracies originating from technology issues also drive their own unnecessary and costly workflows, with billing inaccuracies leading to re-work, reconciliations, client queries, re-approvals and unnecessary additional communication.
Inaccurate time recording also makes a clear picture of true productivity harder to achieve. This can have a significant impact on quotation and forecasting – leading to under-quoting and potential foregone revenue – and resource planning, which leads to higher costs being incurred than are necessary.
A priority area for a comprehensive review
The revenue and cost implications should make reviewing time recording and billing systems a priority for Trustees, Corporate Services and Funds administrators.
Ideally, a review should comprise key areas such as:
- Systems integrations - reliability, speed, gaps, maintainability
- Systems configuration - ensuring business rules on critical data are reflected in the systems
- Systems functionality - does the software itself cater to our requirements?
- Processes - workflows and automation
- Systems maintenance costs
- Technology-oriented risk assessments
Unified Time Recording and billing systems can help solve related issues simultaneously
Modern, robust time recording and billing solutions enable organisations to consolidate their customers administration activities and data – such as time recording, expense tracking, recording fixed/recurring fees, invoicing, statements, payments and reporting - under a single platform where the data is more accurate, current, and better able to analysed and leveraged via automation.
These systems will also typically integrate with accounting systems either natively (in the case of an ERP platform) or via multiple APIs, meaning organisations can then flow this data seamlessly and quickly into other related finance processes ensuring ultimately that the cash conversion cycle is as fast and smooth as possible.
The net result overall is improved operational efficiency and an increase in billable work to bolster revenues and protect margins. At Touchstone and Microgen in fact, we have observed increases in billable time of between 10% and 30% following systems implementation.
With current conditions presenting challenges for some providers around new business and client management, it may a good time to focus resource on addressing underlying technology issues and performance drivers. Considering the impacts on business finances we’ve explored, taking a good look at time recording and billing systems we believe would be time well spent.
Touchstone and Microgen specialise in the development and delivery of powerful unified accounting and administration software solutions for the trust, corporate services and funds administration sectors. If you would like to discuss any of the issues addressed in this post please contact your Account Manager or submit an online enquiry form at www.touchstoneone.com or www.microgen.com.