In my recent article Digital transformation: Time for me to walk-the-walk I talked about my new role as treasurer of the local sports club – you may have seen LinkedIn updates in the past few days. I said I would keep you up to date with progress on our transformation. Here is my first instalment that highlights the importance of people and the opportunities and limitations that technology can present.

People, people, people

Someone spoke to me recently about ‘winning hearts and minds’ when we were discussing transformation. The use of the term ‘hearts and minds’ references a method of bringing a subjugated population on side, to bring them under domination or control, especially by conquest. This is absolutely the opposite approach to that required, despite the phrase on its own sounding like it is the right thing to do.
Like many organisations, the sports club is blessed to have some exceptional individuals. Some are employees. However, many more are volunteers, giving their time out of the goodness of their hearts. Added to this, many have a long history with the club and have developed a strong emotional attachment to it. The reality of this situation is that we rely on a few key individuals who have a huge amount of knowledge. Processes are manually intensive, and nothing is documented. This reliance on so few is a huge risk to the organisation. Therefore, automating processes is critical not just for productivity reasons, but also to reduce risk.
In addition, where there is emotional attachment, there can be a stronger resistance to change. This is understandable. If everything has been OK for years, why change it? Well, there is often good reason. We need to be competitive in the market and continue to grow. Other local gyms and sports clubs will be trying to attract members away from us. We need to have better data. We must be more efficient and effective, to enable growth without increasing our administration costs.
We have started to formulate a change strategy to support transformation that differs slightly from the norm as it includes both employees and members. We need to take everyone on a transformation journey, sharing the vision with them as we go. This will take a while to pull together, but at least we have identified this as an issue to address.

Our first digitalisation

The first issue we identified was the manual intensity of the staff rota and timesheet process that impacts on all staff. We have a bar, function room and gym with staff required for all three. The process has been managed through (you have guessed it) an Excel spreadsheet. A rota was published and made available to staff to let them know when their allocated shifts. This was then used as a basis for calculating monthly payroll. In an attempt to digitalise this process as far as possible, we have subscribed to the RotaCloud app. Our selection was based on previous experience and a review of the functionality on offer. It is yet to be officially integrated with Xero, but it is (apparently) on the development radar. There is functionality to set rotas, allow staff to swap shifts, calculate pay and holiday pay. A highly functional solution at a low cost. The young staff are enthusiastic as well – no selling required. No more manual timesheets and Whatsapp groups to discuss shifts!

The technology is good, but could be better

I have already spoken with our accountants who have a really good technology practice, with particular expertise around Xero. It is a solid and functional online accounting solution with strong integration capabilities. I have been introduced to the Xero App Store which is a useful portal. What I am not certain about is the process that vendors go through to be accepted by the app store, but I will assume it has a satisfactory level of rigour.
There are many positives to Xero as a solution. However, there are weaknesses which, in my opinion, limit it to small businesses usage. The main weakness is that everything is based on transaction date. This creates particular problems for reporting as the posting of old invoices alters previously reported information. In nearly all enterprise solutions, there is a period attached to each entry. Thus, an old invoice is posted to the current period and will not impact previously reported numbers. This would not be so bad if Xero recorded the posting date, allowing you to run a report that identifies all entries for certain transaction dates that are posted late. Alas, no such report despite the fact that there are places where posting date is shown (e.g. history and notes on invoices and journals).
For now, I may need to resort to Excel and decumulate YTD’s, a process on which I am not too keen. Any thoughts form Xero users most appreciated. If someone from Xero reads this article, please get in touch and we can discuss. Xero has the potential to be used by larger organisations if a few changes can be made.

What is next on the agenda?

We are now turning our attentions to the integration with our EPOS solution (EPOSNOW) and the tricky problem of collecting match fees for the hockey team. Small problems on the face of it but ones that create a high level of administration. Oh, and then there is understanding the ins-and-outs of VAT partial exemption. Give me technology problems any day.