The agriculture industry has seen tremendous advancements in technology in recent years, from drones collecting field data to autonomous tractors to crop genetics. But the back-office software managing your business has not received the same amount of attention. Failure to update these key operational tools can result in inefficient processes, reduced oversight, and a decrease in business potential. It might not be as flashy as the latest app, but recognizing the importance of a modern accounting and operations platform is the linchpin to success for ag retailers.
Here are the top five reasons why a modern platform for operations and accounting technology for agriculture businesses is crucial to your growth and success.
1. Model your business for the future
The current landscape of ag retailers and co-ops commonly includes acquisitions and restructuring. Mergers between smaller retailers create one large organization with a host of mismatched systems. This could mean you end up with two accounting teams or more. When separate locations operating under the same umbrella are using different systems and multiple people to track financials and operations, it’s much harder to get an overall picture of what your inventory is, where your applicators are and what your margins are, etc. In this scenario, to truly move your business forward it’s advantageous to migrate to one solution on a single platform that provides you the ability to work with your current locations and business needs while giving you the flexibility to add more and grow your territory when the time is right. One system, managed by one team, creates efficiencies and it becomes easier to change and grow. Let’s be honest, there is a lot of angst involved in adding new locations. If your company adopts one overall accounting and operations solution, it simplifies processes and increases accessibility for operational visibility across the organization and sets your company up for ease of growth.
2. Integrate with other technologies
Because of the explosion of technology applications relevant to agriculture, the ability to integrate with other business-to-business vendors has never been more important. Just in the last few years, many new business applications are being used on a regular basis, such as precision ag tools, prescriptions for fertilizer application, and data collection from hardware on equipment. Other relevant integrations might be with banks, payroll and sales tax automation. All of those applications become more valuable if this technology can be integrated with your central operations. Accounting and operations systems built on a modern platform are much easier to integrate. Integrations are much more difficult on outdated technology because older systems weren’t built to “talk” with newer platforms. When you are able to integrate multiple programs into one data source you’re able to provide better service through more informed decision making, with access to data at your fingertips. Integrations also provide the opportunity for automation. When you’re able to automate a lot of operational things that would otherwise be done manually, you decrease the chance of errors and free up your workforce to do more.
3. Cater to the next generation workforce
The next generation workforce would have a difficult time remembering a time without technology in their daily lives. A new hire today is used to modern, user-friendly interfaces and intuitive interactions within business applications. Your current staff might be a keystroke wizard and know the ins and outs of your aging system, but when they retire there is no backfill for them. The people you hire today have different expectations and have never had to work with keystrokes and green screens. Modern agriculture is ever evolving to be more technologically advanced. If you aren’t embracing this, the best candidates will be going to your competition.
4. Manage relationships with growers
At the core of every business are clients. As an ag retailer, your most important client is your grower. A modern accounting and operations platform allows you to improve this relationship and provide better service. Modern platforms make it easier to create client portals, allowing a seamless two-way flow of information, so your growers can gain better insight into the data they have logged with your ag retail location. This tool means more automated interactions and less time for your team involved in making phone calls, and manually pulling and sending information. If you have a better online presence and can provide the opportunity for self-service, then that lays the groundwork for a better relationship with your growers. In the current state of business for many ag retailers, you might have to make a phone call if you want to deliver, tell them how much you intend to deliver and when to start delivery. What if that scheduling could all take place online at any hour of the day, from anywhere? It can. The more interactions that can be done online the more efficiencies it creates and the less information needs to be sent out in a physical format like catalogs, newsletters, etc., which can be expensive. The more information you can make available and accessible to your growers, there is less of the unknown, and instead, a decrease in confusion and an increase in trust.
5. Increase employee productivity & accuracy
How much time does it take your employees to go from spreadsheet to spreadsheet to spreadsheet, searching for the information they need? This probably sounds familiar. Keeping important organizational information in a series of disjointed spreadsheets is a common state of affairs in the industry. The more manual processes there are, the more time adds up for your personnel to complete tasks, not to mention the increased risk for error. With an up-to-date technology platform that serves the entire organization with integrated accounting and operational functions, there is one source of data for the whole team, no matter what your role or location is. Ease of reporting and a more accurate view of inventory within one system means less time spent on merging information from multiple systems and a more convenient avenue for communication. The means your team can focus on the big picture instead of the minutiae. For an ag retailer, this might mean reducing the number of calls from customers’ grain settlements or questions on their bill, the ability for employees to know within a few clicks what inventory is on hand at each location and be able to trust that data, instead of having to call around to find out.
Your accounting and operations technology is the workhorse of your entire financial foundation. If your organization is growth-minded and looking for ways to increase the visibility and accessibility of information, make life easier for your employees and provide better service to your clients, don’t worry about the latest mobile app. Take a hard look at what’s running your back office and make sure you’re set up for the future.