Businesses today are operating in a highly competitive and challenging environment and, as a result, often look to consultants during critical periods for transformation/turnaround. Business consultants are expected to look at a business that they may not be overly familiar with and provide solutions to its problems, often in a relatively short period of time.
This is where data analytics can aid consultants through the identification of process transformation opportunities by accurately assessing the environment the business is operating in, identifying trends in the business’ data and making predictions based on that data.
The current rate at which data is growing is baffling and can only be described as a “data explosion”. Businesses are grappling with these massive volumes of data, aware of the potential that resides in this information to produce intelligence and real, tangible insights. However, that the fact is many businesses do not know how to draw out these conclusions.
Many businesses turn to consultants to lend a helping hand. In business process transformation projects, consultants need to understand the business processes in detail. To do this accurate analytical tools can help consultants to mine better insights into business processes and measure benefits from the programs they run.
Analytics can help consultants to:
- Create accurate frameworks to help their clients anticipate risk
- Make informed decisions
- Solve complex problems
- Suggest methods for improved performance
It can also be used to uncover critical areas of a process for discussion which consultants may not have been able to identify only based on their experience. They can discover transformation opportunities faster with a data driven and rational approach.
For example with regards to an Accounts Payable (AP) situation, controllers can struggle with operational control across geographies, limited visibility into agent and transactional level activity, lack of means to standardise processes or drive improvements, sustaining SLA maintenance as per agreed targets and more.
Analytics can help consultants to:
- Identify business KPIs and benchmark them against the best in the industry
- Steps to further improve KPIs
- Recognise opportunities to unlock cash, increase profitability, and more.
As an example, in AP Process a fact driven approach helps to unlock cash by avoiding early payments and optimally extending payment terms to kill all possibilities of late payments; increase profitability by avoiding duplicate payments and optimally maximising early payment discounts; in Accounts Receivable (AR) Process, prioritise customers based on past payment behaviour; and define optimal frequency and the preferred mode of connecting customers by referring to historic data.
Analytics can not only help organisations drive innovation but also improves their response to market changes. It is important for consultants to help organisations with effective decision making by putting in place a strong analytical framework which incorporates all aspects such as processes, technology, people and even the culture of the organisation. This can help in data driven decision making based on anything from operational analytics (streamlining processes to meet the changing customer needs) to discovery based analytics (fraudulent credit transaction scenarios).
A consultant’s struggle
On an average, 50-70% of a consultant’s time is spent chasing data which in turn eats into the time they have available for analysis and business support. This means the quality of analysis can be inconsistent and depend heavily on the experience of the consultant. Long reporting cycles lead to delayed decision making. When coupled with the fact that the alignment of goals becomes a challenge when each stakeholder has their own set of metrics to be monitored, this can be a significant issue for consultants.
By adopting a thorough analytics and insight strategy, consultants can further add to their expertise and further assist their business clients achieve their goals.
Ideally, consultants should:
- Create a universe of KPIs across all the processes to achieve business insights and operational governance for multiple processes
- Provide industry benchmarking for every process that helps to instantly identify process gaps
- Measure the transformation path by tracking and validating benefits as improvements are implemented
- Provide insights into processes using real data, that leads to fact based transformation
- Allow drill downs that aid in-depth root cause analysis.
- Identify KPIs at the click of a button, suggest process improvement opportunities
Consultants need to think of ways to leverage analytics to augment decision making. They need to gain the right understanding of their customers’ needs, assess their business environment, automate and streamline their processes, identify data trends and predict future trends.
Knowledge driven analytics framework can be a consultant’s best friend to generate strategic impact and deliver additional value for businesses. Choose the right tool and it can take consultants a long way in enabling client organisations by providing critical and timely insights into their business and operational performance.
By Nikhil Deshpande, Senior Manager, Business Platforms, Business Process Services, Wipro Limited