automation

By Jean McGann, CPA

Most of us have a bucket list. In fact, I’d say most of us probably have multiple bucket lists—one for life, and one for work. Adding to the life one is fun; it gives us a chance to daydream about future adventures. But adding to our work bucket list can elicit different emotions. Even if the projects or goals we place on it fall into the “fun” category, it can be overwhelming to think of all we want to do and, if we’re being honest with ourselves, feel like we should accomplish.

I see this happen regularly within government organizations. There is so much to do, and rarely enough time, money, or resources to get it done. Many of our clients come to us with staggering bucket lists. They want to know how to go from putting out fires to making progress on the projects they’re passionate about.

Does this sound familiar? If so, take heart—automation can help.

What is automation?

When I say “automation,” I’m referring to the act of automating certain processes, such as accounts payable and receivable, payroll, and other administrative functions. Every time you pull out a piece of paper is an opportunity to automate.

While automation typically involves software, it is NOT about reducing your organization’s head count. It’s about finding ways to eliminate redundancies, paper, and even errors, while freeing up your people to focus on what they were hired to do. Here are a few ways automation could benefit your organization.

It doesn’t have to be a sea change.

This is the great thing about automation. Even automating one or two tasks, such as posting meeting agendas online instead of in print, can make a measurable difference. You can take baby steps in automation and still experience its benefits.

It can fit within your budget.

As I mentioned, automation tends to rely heavily on software. Sometimes this means making better use of software your organization already owns. Other times it means purchasing new software or applications. The encouraging thing to know is that automation typically pays for itself. Automating your accounts receivable process may allow you to accept ACH payments—and keep you from waiting for checks.

Another option to consider is implementing purchasing cards; some purchasing card programs even come with a rebate. Using purchasing cards gives you an opportunity to reduce or eliminate many of your organization’s “house” accounts. This prevents your finance staff from having to chase down receipts and reconcile numerous house accounts.

It can make life easier for your stakeholders, too.

One city we worked with was having a hard time managing its licensing and permitting processes. Residents wanted to be able to apply for and purchase licenses and permits online, but the city just wasn’t there yet. With our guidance, the city implemented software that automated its entire license and permitting process, including the online application. Not only is the finance department now able to collect fees immediately, the city’s inspectors can now automatically upload their permitting files to the city’s online system, where they can easily be accessed by residents. Better workflows have led to better customer service—and a happy ending all around.

Ready to learn more?

If you’re wondering how automation could help you check things off your work bucket list, give me a call today. It’s not worth waiting another month or season. Automation, even if it’s confined to one or two processes, could make life much easier—both for you and your residents.

Next time, I plan to share best practices related to process automation. Stay tuned!