Thursday, June 29, 2017

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How to tell when it is time to get new software

Growing your company is expensive and funds are always difficult to justify as many important objectives are demanding a share of this very limited resource. Therefore you don’t want to invest in changes before you have to, but at the same time, you don’t want to wait till the business is running without proper processes in place you start making changes, as the longer the business goes “uncontrolled” the more the money that is lost due to inefficiencies. How do you know that now is the time and not a year from now?

Here are 6 things to look for within your business and depending on how much these are impacting your business it may be your time to change.

1) Management cannot predict with much degree of accuracy revenue/losses.

Shortfalls in expected revenue, large unexpected margin fluctuations across projects and roller coaster billable utilization are happening on a regular basis. Worse yet, your team aren’t realizing these issues have occurred until it is too late to do anything to fix it.

Decisions that are not well-communicated can negatively impact staff and customers. In a small company, it’s usually not a problem as people yell details from desk to desk, send e-mails, leave voice mails, or mention stuff in the lunch room when they see them and so on. But as the company gets larger and the starts running multiple projects concurrently, it is just a matter of time until a change doesn’t get communicated effectively and losses ensue.

2) Re-keying of data

The truth is that no matter how good your business software tools are no business processes and the subsequent business automation can avoid the introduction of the occasional manual report, Excel spreadsheet, or minor manual process. But, the more times your team is re-keying data and the more spreadsheets they have created with data from multiple systems, the more likely it is that those re-keying efforts are hampering visibility, productivity and accuracy of data.

The four dangers with re-keying data:

  1. Determining which document is the current and more up to date one!
  2. inefficiency of re-keying (simply take long to get done)
  3. error-prone aspect of re-keying (ensuring errors are not in the work is one major contributor to it taking long)
  4. time delays between when data in one system has changed and when that data is updated in the next system it is keyed into.

3) Redoing work

An often overlooked cost to business is the amount of time employees waste backtracking because the data they used initially wasn’t the “right” data. Typically, this is the result of two or more departments working off different sets of what should be the same data. Good, hardworking employees are typically making up for this shortfall and although not apparent at face value, what is the cost of your top producers spending time back-tracking because they have too!

This duplicate time allocation often doesn’t show up on management’s radar because employees are solving problems before they’re visible to the organization. They are basically identifying the “wrong” data and spending extra time (and frustration) finding, updating and correctly entering “the right data”. Employee morale is damaged as they spend more and more time doing things that are not supposed to be.

 

4) Near misses and good catches

“Near misses” basically describe something bad that “almost” happened:

  • Almost or losing money on a project
  • Almost or quoting at the wrong margin
  • Almost or ordering and delivering the wrong equipment
  • Almost or scheduling the services team to be on-site on the wrong date
  • Almost or forgetting to invoice the customer for a portion of the project
  • Almost or overlooking a key customer support issue

Usually, the only reason it was an “almost” is because some industrious employee “caught” the pending mistake. Many times its “or” hat has occurred and this implies losses to the bottom line correcting issues; and loss of customer confidence in your company’s ability to deliver on your products. The issue here is that the more frequent the near misses, the more the statistical likelihood that something will eventually slip through the cracks and the “almost” becomes a reality

 

5) Departmental conflicts

Different departments will always have different and sometimes competing objectives:

  • The sales team wants to quote more competitively but senior management wants higher margins.
  • Project managers want lots of lead time, but the sales team wants to please customers’ aggressive project schedules.
  • Procurement wants to place bulk orders but accounting doesn’t want to tie up cash flow.

Although some departmental friction is inevitable, if your departments are constantly in conflict, there may be other issues at play.

6) Too many 3rd party software vendors

In the beginning you picked your business software based on your need at that time.  Since then, you became more savvy software users and you identified some aspects of the business process that also needed automation as requirements became clearer.

With business software it does have a longer life cycle but you still get new neat features.  Annual maintenance fees do bring some comfort but with new trends in the market, maintenance cannot meet those needs. We need mobile sales staff, we need a field service manager, we need CRM, we need eCommerce, we need software to run on an iPad. we need, we need, we need...!  We can always buy new things to install in our car but eventually purchasing a new car with everything built in makes a lot more sense.

Depending on how long you have had this software and how quickly you are growing; eventually you could have 5 to 15, 3rd party software vendors to manage.  What impact will this have at upgrade time; every vendor has to be on the same page. How easily is it to manage all these vendors, cover all the annual maintenance fees and still be running smoothly? 

Maybe it is time to look at a new software business tool that meets all of today’s new demands!

If you are seeing one or more of the critical signs above show up in your business on a consistent basis, then now might be the time to consider making a change.

There is never a convenient time for putting new business processes and business process automation software in place. It is always going to be disruptive, cost money and require employees to learn how to do things differently.

However, the business processes and business process automation software that got you to where you are  is probably not going to scale to get you to the size you have targeted to be. It is always better to get in front of that problem than wait until it becomes a crisis.

If your business is growing and you can identify with any of the points described above, it may also be time to implement more scalable business automation software to support new processes.