Posted by Bal Jutley, Corporate Account Executive, NetSuite

As a quick Internet search can attest, the term road warrior can conjure images of everything from a business traveller to a bagman to my personal favourite “knight of the road.” And, of course, Mel Gibson dressed in leather and dishing out vengeance in a post-apocalyptic dessert where criminals are foraging for gasoline and scraps.

But whatever the image, we all know road warriors to be that band of Advisors, Directors, Consultants and Business Development personnel that live largely out of a laptop bag. In days gone by, these warriors lived life on the road commuting from one engagement to the next, hoarding stacks of rail timetables, or countless road atlas volumes. Their sole link to the office was the weekly pilgrimage to submit timesheets and expenses.

Racing to the red light

Technology of course has replaced rail timetables, road atlases and the need to physically visit the office for time and expense entry. It is easier than ever for our road warriors to provide the information which we rely on to bill our client. Sadly however, more often than not this information is not used as efficiently as it could be in the back office.

The back office of many practices is still a mixture of disconnected silos of information. These disconnected silos are connected with manual effort – wasting time and creating inefficiencies. Many practices have at least four and possibly five or even six information silos.

Silo 1 - Time and Expense in the Cloud
This is probably the easiest piece to enhance with the advent of the mobile and smartphone-connected world. The ability to use a website to collect time and expense entries was the ‘gold-rush’ moment for some businesses that finally freed the road warriors from legacy remote expense entry or even fax machines.

Silo 2 – Resource Planning
Assessing where to deploy road warriors and how best to maximise their utilization is often disconnected from the rest of the back end systems. Organisations want to spot the gaps in the monthly resource scheduling and plug them, but modern practices may have invested in dedicated tools to address this problem alone, or relied on the catch all tool – spreadsheets.

Silo 3 – Engagement Task Management
More complex engagements and assignments require tools to help plan individual tasks, tools that are designed to allocate tasks across a team with milestone delivery information. This is often done with a project management tool has been purchased or again through the use of spreadsheets.

Silo 4 – Invoice and Billing
This is obviously the engine that underpins the back office. It is the system that understands the billing profiles and agreements. It is the system that calculates the invoices and provides the accounting entries for revenue recognition. In fact, some businesses have tried to ‘bend’ their core accounting platform to serve this purpose alone.

Silo 5 – Core Accounting Platform
The core accounting platform will hold valuable credit history information as well as core transactional entries for our clients. It can provide information that could be very valuable in deciding whether to service a client who always pays late.

Silo 6 – Customer Information Management
This provides the actual record of client engagement and management. It is possibly another of those ‘gold rush’ systems that was first purchased and deployed without regard for how it integrated with the rest of the business. These systems record client engagement details and help manage potential opportunities.

Supporting the Warrior

Reducing the number of silos will greatly reduce the delay and reliance on manual processes to run the back office. Aligning any two of the silos above will deliver efficiencies; aligning any three would deliver exponential benefit to a business.

Imagine the ability for a warrior to complete an assignment, enter their time and expenses, receive their next assignment and receive a notification that their expenses for last week have been processed – all from their smartphone or tablet? Let’s help our ‘knights of the road’!