Few things in this world are more modern or faster changing than the technologies that underlie automated treasury management. Computers and networks are faster and more powerful than ever. Today’s core system may well be tomorrow’s doorstop.
Let’s say that your company is ripe for an upgrade to its cash management capabilities. You might be automating for the first time – moving away from manual ledgers and Excel spreadsheets. Or you might anticipate sales growth or corporate expansion, and you want to make sure that your systems and processes will be able to handle it.
How can you be sure that your investment in a TMS will give you the best possible return? How can you determine whether a particular vendor or brand is the best fit for you?
That’s an appropriate question: “What’s the best fit?” You don’t need a newly-minted Ph. D. in engineering to guide you. Rather, you can look back about 40 years to the sage advice of John T. Molloy, the first self-declared “wardrobe engineer,” who wrote the best-selling “Dress for Success.”
Why You Buy Clothes for Yourself and Cash Management Systems for Your Company
Mr. Molloy’s guiding philosophy about wardrobe selection could just as well be applied to TMS selection. He wrote, “Your clothes should move you up socially and in business, not hold you back…If you are a Wall Street stockbroker, go to work in a conservative, three-piece pinstripe business suit. If you are an art director for a Madison Avenue ad agency, avoid conservative clothing in favor of more flamboyant, ‘with-it’ gear.”
In like manner, your new Treasury Management System should move your company up the ladder of business success. It should speed up and simplify your company’s operations while enabling you to meet the requirements of your customers and markets. Your customers and markets are your own. Seek the system that enables you to serve them to the best of your company’s capabilities.
So here are some guiding principles that you may keep in mind, whether you’re performing CTR (Clothing and Textiles Research) to go shopping for a BDU (Battle Dress Uniform), or if you’re immersed in TWAIN (Technology Without an Interesting Name) in search of a TMS.
Have a Plan
Before you go out the door, draw up a shopping list. What’s missing from your wardrobe now? Shop strategically. Have a clear idea of what your overall wardrobe should contain.
If you’re in the market for cash management software, you should think about what functions and features you want. Not all offerings do the same things, and some do what they do better than others. Most of them will help you with consolidating, projecting, and banking. Others are better at connectivity, generating reports, and integrating accounting.
Maybe you won’t be wearing all of the garments in your wardrobe anytime soon. But if you’re sure that you’ll need them at some point during the year, better to get them now. The same goes for the features of a TMS.
Seek Compatibility and Interoperability in Clothing and in Cash Management.
Think carefully about each piece of clothing. Can you wear it with at least three more garments in your wardrobe?
When you’re buying garments, make sure that you can combine each piece with other clothes, so that you can wear it in more than one season and get some usage out of it on more than one type of occasion. Go for solid colors rather than the prints and plaids – they mix-and-match better.
The sartorial message here, translated for TMS selection, is to think both in terms of modules and of compatibility with your other systems and processes. Your greatest need right now may be for higher efficiency and cost-savings in your payment processes. You may also be thinking of streamlining your reporting processes after you get the payments flow under control. The reporting that you’ll then focus on will inevitably be better – clearer, more timely, and more complete.
Some of the greatest benefits of cash management systems stem from compatibility with other systems and processes. Be sure that the system you choose is fully compatible with your own ERP system. That will mean more automation, less manual data entry and re-entry, and fewer errors.
Another sine qua non is the capability of connecting with financial institutions, whether domestic or international. Be sure that your cash management vendor has demonstrated expertise in working with all connection options and data formats. That will enable you to securely access, transmit, and display all your required treasury information.
Also, take note of your prospective vendor’s experience and track record with partnerships. If you’re thinking of marketing payments functionality to your own customer base, be sure that your provider has a strong track record in white-labeling and in helping partners customize its product for the partners’ own user bases.
Style Defines You, Both in Your Mode of Dress and in Your Mode of Business
Buy the clothes and styles that will fit the social and business strata where you operate, and where you’ll be traveling. In other words, consider your lifestyle. What clothing do you need that will make you both feel great and look great, so you can do what you usually do well?
This piece of advice bears on two major considerations when you’re in the market for a TMS. One of them is internal, and one of them is external.
Let’s take the internal one first. What’s your company’s style of operating? Do you have a particular, unique approach that leads you to keep things hands-on and in-house? And if so, do you have varsity-caliber technical staff? Or do you call upon outside expertise for your IT operations?
The answer to the above questions will likely lead to whether you’ll be better off with a cloud-based, SaaS Treasury Management System or an installed, in-house one. A cloud-based approach means no upfront capital expenditures, a predictable monthly bill, and automatic upgrades and patches. An in-house approach lets your staff tweak and modify the system to your unique specifications – your “secret sauce” – that you’d prefer to keep under wraps.
As for the external consideration bearing on the above wardrobe question: what industry segment are you in? Your wardrobe should demonstrate that you are a member of the social and business circles in which you operate. Your cash management system should show that you are a member – or at least an affiliated member by virtue of your associations and track record – of the industry segment(s) that you serve.
Concerning those industry segments – your prospective TMS provider should be able to offer you success stories and case studies of their work with companies from the same or a comparable industry or vertical segment. This would show two things: that they have the experience in implementing the software, and they have been able to address issues and problems that similar clients have grappled with.
Don’t Forget Service and Support
Make friends with a good tailor. Nothing raises the quality of clothes more than having them altered to suit your shape. So build a relationship with a tailor or dressmaker who knows your body and your taste. If your workforce wears uniforms, be sure that the uniform company has a true tailoring service and not just some local tailor that they engaged in order to get your contract.
Like a suit or a dress, an ERP system is not likely to fit perfectly when it’s right “off the rack.” As your wardrobe items must be hemmed, taken in, or let out there and there before you head out on the town, your TMS must be expertly installed, tested, and adjusted before launch.
Just like your clothing will need cleaning, pressing, and an occasional mending, your system will need regular maintenance and upgrades. Make sure that your vendor is adept, prompt, and methodical with its implementations – that the “tailors” of its technical staff are up to the task. Also be certain, by checking references, that your vendor’s track record of post-installation account management is outstanding. Your vendor should have the same outlook as that of Vidal Sassoon, another style maven – but of hair, not of clothing: “If you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”
It’s Not What You Buy for Clothes or Invest in for a Cash Management System: It’s How You Use Them.
For a final word, we turn again to John Molloy and his advice to women in the workplace. He wrote his first dress-for-success back when women were just beginning to enter all areas of the business world in serious numbers. Several years later, he wrote, “A woman’s success does not depend entirely or even primarily on how she dresses, but dress is an important factor in most women’s careers. Research shows that when a woman dresses for success, it does not guarantee success, but if she dresses poorly or inappropriately, it almost ensures failure.”
The same observation can be made about your new, automated treasury management system. It can save your company time and money, it can modernise your operations, and it can give you a highly detailed and accurate picture of your company’s liquidity and capital. It’s a powerful asset and a competitive advantage. But, like a good wardrobe, it doesn’t ensure your success. Only you can do that!