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Access Group: At The Forefront of The Hybrid Working Future

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Adaptability is key for overcoming challenges, but tech investment is needed to align the workforce of the future, says Access Group CFO Rob Binns.

In a sentence or two, who is the Access Group? What do you do?

The Access Group provides business management software to over 55,000 small and mid-market organisations across the UK, Ireland, and Asia Pacific. Ultimately, we provide technology and services to help organisations work more efficiently, increase productivity, and give people the freedom to spend on the important things.

What type of business will benefit from your software?

We’re a multidivisional organisation with over 4,800 staff across numerous function and sector-specific teams, including HR and payroll, finance, non-profit, legal, hospitality, recruitment, health and social care, education, construction, manufacturing, e-commerce, and more. We’re not limited by industry, but predominantly cater to small to mid-market organisations.

Every business is changing, adapting, and evolving. Whichever part of the economy we work in, we position ourselves as a technology partner that supports a drive to change, adapt, evolve and consequently, create new opportunities and drive efficiencies.

What are some key learnings for Access over the past year?

Being flexible and resilient is key for solving the problems many businesses encountered during the pandemic, both as a group and to support our clients. A great example of this is with our Access Collins for Care product. Previously it was developed to manage capacity and bookings in the hospitality sector, but we spotted an opportunity to support the care sector during the pandemic. The same scheduling technology was in-demand in health and social care to help carefully plan family visits, so we pivoted to create a new solution, which helped to reunite loved ones during that really difficult time.

This kind of innovative thinking is key. Although we’re proud of our specific industry expertise in each division, we don’t operate in silos.

We’ve also seen many of our customers taking a similar approach. Kirkstall Precision Engineering saw its order book drop by 50% overnight as a supplier of products for elective surgical procedures. The team quickly focused on supporting the government’s call for assistance by producing components to manufacture ventilators. The company also secured work in other sectors such as general engineering, food, and beverage, made easier by having software solutions that could flex and grow as they expanded capacity.

Many of our customers have been able to take advantage of shifting consumer behaviour. There are a number who have used our Factory Master production planning software in the mobile home/caravan/soft furnishing sectors to cope with increased demand due to a significant surge in demand with the rise in popularity of the ‘staycation’ – and this is a trend that is expected to continue.

As we continue in a period of uncertainty caused by the Omicron variant of Covid, how is Access helping to support different ways of working?

We continue to challenge ourselves every day, as to how and where we can add further value to support our customers through the next stages of change.

Every sector we work with is unique and facing its own individual set of challenges right now. Understanding those nuances is critical – a ‘one size fits all’ approach just isn’t sustainable as we move through another period of uncertainty. The reality is that some of the old ways of working and legacy systems in place in many organisations will no longer be fit for purpose.

We remain focused on supporting specific sector needs – offering dedicated solutions for manufacturing organisations, wholesalers, distributors, logistics organisations, and Ecommerce retailers. We also offer Finance specific solutions to a broad range of sectors including not-for-profit and health and social care ,as well as payments and cashflow management solutions via Access PaySuite to account for the rapid acceleration of digital payments over the past year.

What challenges do organisations face when offering flexible or hybrid working? How does Access help?

Having access to real time, accurate data is a vital part of recovery and helps inform important management decisions. However, not every organisation is equipped to share, store, and collaborate on important documents or data regardless of where their workforce is based. We’re seeing more organisations move towards solutions like Access Workspace that include rich insights and reporting which can be acted on in real time. Organisations need to go further than ever before to break down silos, allowing people to self-serve the insights they need to perform their roles, while also gaining a true understanding of business performance and opportunities to increase productivity and efficiency.

On the true human level, our Access People division is helping HR managers and those overseeing learning and development. This division provides the tools and technology needed to engage, train and develop staff, as whole industries adapt to a new hybrid way of working. I believe that getting paid should be simple and with the right system, chasing payments and reconciling transactions becomes less time consuming, saving hours of admin time. Rather than finance teams worrying about cashflow, they can focus on managing their business for growth. Access PaySuite solves these problems.  For employees who need access to their pay on demand to support them when they need it most, Access EarlyPay has been taken up by many organisations keen to support their people the best way they can.

Keeping teams connected, happy, high-performing, and engaged is going to be an ongoing challenge for all sectors. The holistic feedback you’d receive from a manager or colleague in an office environment is missed, with no social cues to pick up on. Our Access Applause for HR platform helps combat this, keeping employees engaged by publicly recognising them for their hard work.

Are there any client success stories or tangible results you can share here?

I’d like to highlight Brown and Co, who are a provider of agency, professional and consultancy services. We worked very closely with the team to help them move their processes and systems online, just weeks before the pandemic hit. When the March 2020 lockdown was announced, they had to quickly pivot all their employees to work from home.

They told us that if they hadn’t gone live with Access when they did, they wouldn’t have been able to keep up with some of the critical components of their business financial management – invoicing being one of them.  Their old system was still based on printed invoices – something that just wouldn’t have been sustainable for remote working. Access Financials has meant they could keep their employees safe and keep revenue coming in.

Health, safety, and wellbeing are obviously top priorities for employers to consider – how can Access help businesses alleviate some of this uncertainty?

Supporting a healthy, happy workforce is important to ensure the wellbeing of your employees, teams, and the organisation.

Learning, wellbeing, and compliance is going to be crucial as we reshape and rebuild, particularly when it comes to delivering this with a hybrid workforce. Is a return to in-person training going to be practical with a hybrid workforce and are you, as a business, equipped to deliver these vital components in a more remote way?  Digital learning solutions, including a wide variety of sector specific learning, health and safety, compliance training, as well as mental health courses, can help, giving staff the freedom to engage with company news and training when it works for them. HR teams can also quickly log into each employee’s profile to see progress and make suggestions for other relevant courses.

How is Access helping organisation prepare for the future of work – whatever this looks like long term?

The ‘future of work’ has always been our focus and that pre-dates the pandemic.

We know that over the last nearly two years many organisations have cited the difficulties of motivating employees during these times – the ability to support with little scope for salary increases or bonuses, sickness, stress, and general skills shortages has become acute in many businesses. Of course, some of these issues are set to continue.

One thing this pandemic has taught us, is that major disruption has also driven accelerated innovation.

The key is going to be making those small changes that unlock greater potential. For example, we’ve supported hundreds of finance professionals to move their processes and systems out of the office environment to support a more dispersed workforce. That drive has meant many have already implemented more sophisticated systems which will hold them in good stead for managing the next stages of their growth and any other impact the pandemic may have in the future. As we continue through this period of uncertainty and hopefully into a new period of growth and recovery, organisations must continue to optimise cashflow but start to switch focus on growth to create the stable and profitable future their employees and leadership aspire to.

To learn more about Access Group, visit http://www.theaccessgroup.com/

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