Santa’s Workshop Woes

Christmas now seems to have been talked about since Halloween was over. It seemed like the 1st November came and the build up to Christmas went into overdrive. It then cranked up a gear further on 1st December. Now here we are, with just one week left. How organized are you? Is the shopping complete, tree up, presents wrapped and cards posted? Or are you a frantic Christmas Eve shopper?

How much planning do you think has been going on at the North Pole? Santa’s workshop must be a hive of activity in these last few weeks. All of the Christmas chat has got me thinking, how do you think Santa’s workshop handles the whole lead to cash process?

We could imagine that a lead is a Santa letter requesting the presents and cash being the milk (or something stronger) and mince pie left for Santa at each house. Ok – so maybe it is a huge stretch of imagination but let’s go with it for this week’s blog.

Imagine that the letters are orders. These come in huge sacks of mail that need to be processed. The team of order processing elves get to work entering these into the order system. The accuracy of this is of paramount importance. Lots of children have painstakingly written these wish lists (the orders) out by hand and sent them off. They are now waiting patiently to find out if they are on the naughty or nice list this year and that they get all that they have asked for (ordered). The issue is – how do the elves decipher all the different variations of handwriting. Some might be all neat and tidy and easy to read. There are others that could be a scrawled note. What are the elves to do? All they can do is their best to work out what people want. What happens though if they enter an order for a Barbie when the request (order) was really for a bike. The problem is writing orders out on paper and entering orders into a system is a duplication of effort and relies on neat handwriting and accurate data entry. This manual step is wide open to duplication and error. It would be so much easier if the Santa letter came by email or any other form of electronic messaging the children are using these days. It’s almost impossible to keep up with what the latest service is they are all using.

The next department to get involved is assembling and manufacturing. Never more so do they need accurate information to know what to build. The fighting that went on last year between the two departments is still etched on everyone’s minds and was not a pretty site. No one should have to deal with angry elves everywhere. It does highlight that passing information accurately between departments is essential. If the orders had come in electronically, they could easily be processed through the system.

Next, we move onto packing and shipping. Shipping is of course not until Christmas Eve when Santa makes his deliveries but that sleigh needs to be prepared in a certain way or chaos will ensue. Again, information flow between departments is the only way to make this possible. By the time some of the paperwork reaches the shipping department it could be in terrible state. Santa could be delivering in Australia, fly to the UK and realise there is still an Australian delivery on the sleigh. Not a good situation as a child wakes up in Australia howling as their friends all have their presents delivered and they are left wondering why they were on the naughty list this year and then there is a very unamused Santa at having to turn round and go back halfway through the UK deliveries.

Next department for Santa preparation is the invoicing. This is where the information has to be 100% spot on. The invoicing elves have to prepare the invoices to send to the parents. They need to know what was on the original letter (order), how much of that order could be fulfilled and what will ultimately be delivered on Christmas Eve. You can imagine the painful process they have trying to reconcile all of that information on paper.

With all these manual steps involved and the ultimate responsibility of this being Santa’s it’s no wonder the man needs a rest for most of the following year before it starts all over again. Looking forward to the January sunshine break with the Easter Bunny is all that keeps him going at this time of the year.

All of this stress could be relieved straight away by implementing some modern systems at the North Pole.

To come back to reality and all joking aside, any business with processes that require information to flow between departments would benefit from implementing an integrated business information system. The issues and challenges I have been writing about this year highlight the problems of departments working in silos and information not being readily available to the right people at the right time. Giving your marketing, sales and finance functions access to this system from anywhere at any time ensures a seamless flow of information between each function. Data is accurate and processes are quicker as a result. The ultimate benefit of this is a smooth lead – order – cash process.

Of course I am speaking in jest and this is a light hearted view of things since we are approaching Christmas. However, these are challenges facing businesses on a daily basis, not just at Christmas.