There is a natural tendency to focus on the cool or exciting problems where technology can be applied. Sometimes this may result in the overlooking of more mundane areas where even greater benefit can be extracted. And these are the areas which I believe will drive IT spend through the recession when there is little appetite for exciting technology innovation! One such example is the automation of account reconciliation - the often manual and painful process carried out by corporate finance departments as part of closing the books at the end of each period (and the subject of an ebizq webinar on the 12th February I am delivering with Gary Schwartzberg of Smartstream Technologies).
During any economic downturn, corporate finance departments look for ways of reducing cost. If the cost cutting can be in the finance department itself, all the better. However, the current environment is somewhat different as there is also a crisis of confidence among the investor community and hence any cost cutting in finance must avoid damaging standards of corporate governance.
The webinar next week is focusing on an area which if correctly addressed, fits the bill by improving standards and reducing the manual effort (and hence cost). Account reconciliation may not appear be the most obvious area to look for hidden costs. However, anybody who has struggled to reconcile their own credit card statement to receipts can probably imagine the amount of effort required by large corporations to do the same across thousands of accounts across multiple business units and even countries (on the webinar, Gary will be talking about a corporation that needed 500 employees and over 100,000 man hours of effort to complete the task).
The solution that Smartstream is proposing - based on their experience in corporate finance departments as well as large financial services firms - is a form of business process management designed specifically to solve this type of problem. This makes a lot of sense as the reconciliation problem is first of all one of process optimization and knowledge capture - then one of supporting the management of the inevitable exceptions (those reconciliation problems that cannot be automatically resolved using the defined business rules and workflows).
If this sounds like something your organization could benefit from sign up for the webinar here.