EFT – What is it and What can it do for me?

In the not too distant past it was exciting to learn about disruptive technology. Disruptive technology that changes our lives, both business and personal, can be interesting and often exciting. But in the last couple of months we have all learned a new level for the meaning of disruptive.

In the first part of 2020 we have been reminded that disruptions can come from other things besides technology. Disruptions this year have sent many of us scrambling to employ technology to maintain our business continuity into the near future. That technology has already been available to us, but it wasn’t deemed mission critical to implement because we had the ability to put our “boots on the ground” to address all work hurtles and day-to-day processes. Now that has all changed. Now we are looking for technology to help us maintain business during this office shut down period.

One of the easiest but underutilized tools provides the ability to electronically handle vendor payments and is called Electronic Funds Transfer, or EFT. This process allows us to pay vendors without having to be in an office to print checks; collate and file checks with backup; fold and put the checks in envelopes; run the envelopes through the postage machine; and then mail them out or have them picked up at the front desk. In addition, EFT eliminates the added expense for check stock, printers, envelopes, stamps, filing cabinets…the list goes on. That’s a lot of man hours and supplies every week!

Using EFT, the accounting team still processes the invoices for payment in your system, but when it is time to pay, they simply run the EFT process instead of printing checks. The EFT process can be run by accessing the appropriate program in your ERP/Accounting system, whether it is cloud based or accessed remotely. The resulting electronic file is then transferred to your bank. This means employees working from their home office, with the proper authority, could be paying your vendors from their own electronic devices.

According to a US Government Appropriations report from as old as 1998, EFT is virtually crime free when compared to $60 million in forged checks, $1.8 million in counterfeit checks and $3.3 million in altered checks experienced by the Federal Government annually before their adoption of EFT. Yes, that was our old gray-mustached government adopting EFT in 1998! As an industry, real estate and construction have always been slow to adopt new technology. So if you’re not using EFT today, perhaps this worldwide disruption and the embarrassment of being 22 years behind the federal government in adoption will be enough to get us to move forward!

Leverage the lessons of this disruption to adopt this easy-to-use and simple-to-setup technology today. If you have questions or need help in implementing EFT, positive pay or other electronic processes, give us a call. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to implement. And Cornerstone has decades of experience helping folks just like you…really, just like you.

From new Force Majeure clauses to Waivers of Liability, will contracts ever be the same?

 

Real estate contracts are being changed in many ways to address possible liability due to the pandemic:

 

– Force majeure clauses to ensure ‘disease’ is covered
– Waiver of liability for home tours
– COVID clauses and more

 

Here are Joe’s links to read about the changes and how some are capitalizing on them:
 
Watch Out For The “Corona Clause” Being Added To Real Estate Contracts

Forbes.com

COVID-19 Guidance for Real Estate Professionals

RECBC.ca

The Current Real Estate Covid-19 Legal Situation

KahaneLaw.com

When God Appears in Contracts, That’s ‘Force Majeure’

Bloomberg.com

The Art of Working From Home

Successfully working from home is more than just setting aside a place, creating “office hours” or putting on regular clothes to get you in the mood. The Cornerstone team is happy to share some methods and mindsets to keep you on track and maximize your work day.

1. How to change from one task to another task mid-stream on a daily basis – this is difficult even when you are in a office setting! Here are a few tips:

– Mark down where you left off before moving onto the next task.
– Jot down any ideas you have for where you were headed when you left off.
– Communicate with anybody who needs to know about any delay in completing the task.

2. What to do if you can’t catch someone else on the phone

– Be patient – this is the best advice we can give. Don’t make any assumptions about why they have not responded. Everyone is busy.
– Follow up with an email. If you don’t want to put everything in the email that’s OK, just say that you want to meet with them to discuss more.
– If you really need to meet and haven’t heard, you can try to schedule a meeting and send them an invitation with a short explanation. Sometimes that will bring a quick response.

3. How to deal with projects that are suddenly abandoned

– Find out if there are outstanding items that need to be wrapped up.
– Let it go – unless you are a stakeholder, it is far better use of your time to try to assist with the next project.
– If you are a stakeholder, try to schedule or be part of a post-mortem discussion.
– If you think there is still value in a piece of the project, make your pitch to continue on with just that part or pitch a different project.

4. How to be strategic about scheduling your day

– Schedule an hour each morning just to catch up on email and communicate with people who are waiting to hear from you.
– Move tasks to a different folder or add new tasks to a list you are keeping so that you have one place that captures all your “To-Do’s.”
– Make a list of the things you want to work on today. Don’t include number of hours or say that you will finish any task, as your plans could get disrupted at any point.
– If you have any tasks that you did not complete that are high priority, make a note of this so that you can start on those tasks first tomorrow (after your catch up hour where you communicate that to your stakeholders).

5. How to be strategic about adding value and getting additional work

– Each morning, review your To-Do list and think about where your stakeholders are going or want to be with each project.
– If you see something that you think will add value to your task that will take negligible time to complete, or takes a little bit of time but will delight your stakeholders, add it to your To-Do list.
– If your value add will also add significant hours, pitch the idea to the stakeholders first. Say, “I think this could bring you tremendous value and this is why” and wait for an answer before you proceed.
– Don’t invest emotionally in projects or tasks. If you feel strongly about the benefits, list them out for stakeholders and quantify them wherever possible. Cold facts are going to beat passionate feelings any day.

6. Communication

– Don’t shy away from communicating news that someone else does not want to hear. Start by drafting an email in Word or Notepad. Take your time to massage your draft until it conveys the tone and message that you want to send without being offensive to anyone.
– Decide whether the message is better conveyed on a call or face to face (if you have that option). If it is, you have your script ready from your draft email. If you cannot reach the person(s) in your chosen method, send the email explaining that and ask to meet for further discussion.
– Communicate daily if you have not set up a date to give your next status update. If you don’t need to give daily updates, set up a date to give your next status update…and stick to it.
– If you encounter an issue, include that in your status update. It may have a bigger impact than you realize.

7. When to meet facetime to facetime (or similar)

– When you haven’t touched base with your stakeholders for a while, especially if things aren’t going well. You can convey emotions and show concern much better than with email.
– When you are trying to salvage a project or need to convey more bad news.
– Anytime you have been conversing via email and relationships have not been improving.
– Kickoff meetings and/or when you are getting to know a team for a project.
– You would like more work with the stakeholder in the near future, or you are pitching an idea for another project. A personal touch is a good idea in this situation.

Have more questions? Ask Joe!

How frequently should I attend my ERP User Conferences?

The ERP company hosting the conference will tell you “every year.” The business unit paying for the trip will often tell you “almost never.” The answer really lies somewhere in between. Since your ERP is likely your most critical business system, we would recommend not waiting more than three years without attending the conference. Keeping up to date on the latest features, learning about upcoming features, and weighing-in on desired features are all beneficial. In addition, networking and learning how your peers are leveraging system functionality are components you really cannot get anywhere else. Still can’t make it? No worries, Cornerstone regularly attends several ERP conferences each year. We can tell you the pros and cons of different conferences and share with you insights we gain at these events.

I’m in real estate and I keep hearing “Disruptive technology” in reference to industry concerns. Please explain.

Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen coined the term ‘disruptive technology’ in his 1997 best-selling book, “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” Christensen states that disruptive technology lacks maturity, often has performance problems, appeals to a limited audience, and may not yet have a proven practical application. As an unused, unapplied and untested alternative, it takes time for disruptive technology to be predominantly deployed.

However, because disruptive technology is new it has certain advantages, enhancements, and functionalities over competitors. This technology consists of ground-breaking products that significantly alter the way businesses or entire industries operate, and ultimately renders existing technology obsolete. Examples of disruptive technology are Email and Cell Phones.

Disruptive technologies are sometimes described as being simultaneously destructive and creative, with the power to change the way we work, live, think and behave.

Do we have to integrate all of our systems?

No, of course, you do not have to integrate all your systems. There’s an easy rule to follow to determine which systems should be integrated. Your goal should be “One Time Entry, Closest to the Source of Origin”. That means if any systems require entry of the same piece of information causing duplicate entry work in the organization, then most likely those systems should be integrated. “Closest to the Source of Origin” means that typically the first person/role that receives the information should be entering it into one system to feed all the systems.

Think about what makes the Microsoft stack so appealing…they have integrated their products as much as possible and they keep going for more. If a user is set up in the Outlook Exchange Server, they that same user is available in SharePoint, Delve, Sway, O365, etc. You should want that same level of efficiency in your own organizations. If you need help with the concepts or putting this into play, give us a call. We’ve got decades of experience in just this philosophy.

How do I determine what system is best for my company?

It’s best to be analytical when determining a what system is a good fit for your company. Start with a list of requirements and a wish list. Rate these items on priority (high, medium, low, etc.). It is often helpful to have a weighted average on the specific requirements.

Next, meet with the key stakeholders and get in-depth input. Be sure to include the technology platform and support in your requirements. From this you can develop your RFP (request for proposal). These requests should be sent to 5 or 6 software companies that initially meet your needs. Based on the responses and the related scoring, reduce the field to 3 players and then request a demo of each. Be sure you have your requirements of what you want in the demo; this is a scripted demo.

Of course, you are getting the quotes for initial outlay in cost and the ongoing costs. Factor in the cost of implementation as well. From this comparison, you should be able to determine the best fit for your organization.

Remember, this is not your normal skill set. Frequently companies use Cornerstone to guide them through this process, including predesigned templates and letters. We not only have experience in small to large RFPs, but we know most of the systems out there. That inside knowledge often helps tip the scale for the searching company to the best fit.

What are the data security regulations that I need to comply with?

If you are not in the IT, Legal, or Audit department, first seek out a data security, privacy, or IT auditor staff member. If you have more than one of these individuals on staff, you may need to talk to multiple people to get you started. Certainly you will need to work with one or more of these people (if you have them on staff) to obtain necessary compliance.

There are many regulations surrounding data security and whether you need to comply with them depends upon what type of data you process, how you collect, process, and store it, what type of company you are, where you are located and more. Here are some of the types of regulations that exist today:

> PCI-DSS: If you accept credit card payments for any type of purchase, you must comply with this regulation.

> Sarbannes/Oxley (SOX): If you are a publicly traded company, you must comply with this regulation.

> GDPR: If you process personal data from EU residents (even temporary residents), you must comply with this regulation. Canada residents are also protected by “CASL” and US residents are protected by the “CAN-SPAM” act.

> GLBA (Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act): Compliance to this regulation is required by banks and financial institutions.

> HIPAA: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act applies to all companies who collect, store and process personal medical information.

Note: when researching regulations/laws that your company needs to comply with, be sure to search for state and local laws as well as federal and international. Many states like California and Massachusetts have their own relevant compliance requirements.

Should all of our systems authenticate to the same place?

Many software systems can be configured to authenticate to your network account repository – the most popular one being Active Directory. The primary advantage for users is one password for access to multiple systems. For administrators it is also being able to deactivate an account in one central location for all systems. If you are using Active Directory you can then apply policies around user’s accounts as well.

So, for ease of management and to be able to apply available management tools, having central authentication is a time (and therefore money) saver for both users and administrators.

On the downside, authenticating to one repository for multiple systems means that if a password is compromised an unauthorized user could potentially gain access to all systems the authorized user has access to. In addition, if that repository experiences an outage users could be locked out of multiple systems. Thus, make sure you plan accordingly and implement best practices for security before switching to central authentication.