Would you trust a baker who doesn’t eat their own bread? Of course not. So, we figured: you probably wouldn’t trust an IT partner that doesn’t heed its own advice. Behind the scenes, our CIO Steven Fleurent and delaware partner Filip Decostere are working hard to make the ‘self-driven back office’ a reality. Read on to hear more about their experiences, expectations and goals in this unique exposé.
Steven and Filip have been part of the delaware family for as long as most can remember. Throughout the years, they’ve seen the company change, and the IT landscape change with it. In 2017, delaware reached a new milestone by becoming the first company worldwide to put its entire ERP environment on the SAP S/4 HANA public cloud. With this bold move, the foundations were laid for the current move towards a truly self-driven back office.
“By moving to the SAP public cloud, delaware now has what’s called an ‘intelligent ERP’,” explains Filip. “This enabled us to start thinking about automating certain back office tasks, like support, finance and HR, to free people’s time up for more challenging, value-added projects.” Unlike many other businesses, however, delaware doesn’t have a vast number of repetitive tasks it can automate. “People at delaware often wear different hats and have several responsibilities. Our goal is not to replace them, but to eliminate certain time-consuming tasks that add little to no value.”
“In our finance department, for example, basic accounting tasks are now 60% automated to free up time for proactive controlling. In HR, automated CV analysis plays an important role in speeding up the recruiting process. It also makes it easier to process internal promotions,” Steven explains. “Another advantage is that there’s a lower risk of errors.”
“Accounts receivable managers at delaware play a vital role in improving the overall cash flow by lowering customer DSOs and bad debt write-offs,” Filip Continues. “Today, they are assisted by artificial intelligence, which provides new insights in expected cash flows and customer risks. The prediction model was developed within the SAP Leonardo framework, based on historical billing, project, accounting and CRM data. Besides payment behavior, it also takes the internal process of invoice creation into account.”
Steven: “In the back-office finance department, matching incoming payments to outstanding invoices is often a time-consuming activity. Plenty of valuable accounts receivable resources are required to complete this task in a timely manner and update customer balances. To further increase automatic clearing rates and invoice-matching proposal, a new initiative was set up that links incoming payments and invoices based on multiple recognition rules. As a result, the accounting department can shift its focus from manual finance tasks to value-driven activities.”
How do their delaware colleagues react to these changes? Steven: “Well, since we’re an IT company with a lot of young people, most people are very open to new tools. Still, there’s a recurring trend here: the tool with the highest usability always wins – and it’s not always the one we had in mind. For example, we often see our people adopting new cloud tools for specific processes or collaborative needs. It’s always usability that drives this adoption. As the internal IT supplier, we then evaluate the tool and decide whether it can become a corporate tool, complying to our security standards and our IT ecosystems.
When a solution works, it can be positively liberating, however. “One team member used to be responsible for registering fixed-price projects in Excel. This was an enormous task that could take up to three harrowing days of mouse-clicking. Today, an RPA has taken over all that and the analysis is performed almost immediately. We could sense her relief throughout the entire office.”
The example illustrates an important aspect of the self-driven back office. Steven: “It’s not just about technology. It’s about questioning processes that have been in place for decades. The main question we have to ask ourselves is: ‘do we still need to do this in this way?’ A simple example: managers had to approve every single leave request submitted by their team members. But then we started thinking: what added value does that bring to the business? Today, everyone registers their leave in the system. It’s their responsibility to align with their backup.”
The same is true for consultants booking flight tickets, or purchasers making orders. It’s this move towards ‘self-service’ that best defines the project at delaware. Filip concludes: “Self-service is our way of safeguarding the delicate balance between efficiency and creativity. After all, we might be a big company today, but it’s important to maintain that entrepreneurial spirit that has guided us from the start. Giving our people that freedom while making their jobs as pleasant as possible is our ultimate goal.”
At delaware, we practice what we preach. Let’s discuss how we can help your business leverage the power of a self-driven back office: reach out to our experts for a chat.