Recognizing when you’ve outgrown your business software needs
Small Business September 5, 2012 admin
As a company grows, it adopts various tools and processes to help with day to day operations. But what makes sense when you’re just starting out, or still small, may not scale and adapt to your needs as your company gets bigger. What’s more, you may not even realize that a problem exists, for the familiarity and habits of an existing system may be masking inefficiencies or problems just because you’re used to it. Let’s take a look at some situations that may get you thinking about whether your current tools are doing everything you need.
Need to consolidate different products
Any time you’re using multiple products in your business that don’t talk directly to each other, there may be redundant data entry occurring. Duplicated data is something to be avoided, obviously because of the literally duplicated efforts of your employee’s time, but also of the potential for different lists to become out of sync when, for example, a supplier’s address is updated in one place but not another.
Moving from multiple address books on each employees computer, to a centralized one is a step that many companies make. When making this switch, it’s probably a good idea to look closely at all the other systems you’re using that might be compartmentalized in either an individuals computer, or something that’s only accessible within a certain department, such as specialized or custom project tracking databases, CRMs, or local file servers.
Having mobile access to company data
Not having a way to access and interact with your business when not in the office can often be a trigger that drives the search for new tools. With the capabilities of smart phones today, not taking full advantage of them for business use is simply a waste. If your employees are often in the field, take a look at the key functions they perform to see if their efficiency couldn’t be improved with better access to internal scheduling systems, contact databases or project management tools.
Business tools that don’t offer a solid web app, or better still, native applications for your mobile platform of choice, are missing a key aspect of the way businesses today are operating. Think through the sort of things that you’d commonly do outside of the office and then consider solutions that do them well.
Existing paper based processes
Many business still rely on paper or analogue mediums, be it forms to manage information for projects, or scheduling with a big whiteboard calendar in a common area at the office. While these types of processes do work, the inherent physical nature of them mean that the information they contain can only be accessed in their presence and by one person at a time. For projects that involve multiple teams, this can be both inefficient and lead to inaccuracy when making decisions without having easy access to project information.
As an example, many event planning businesses rely on paper forms to gather info from clients during the sales phase and then at some point, transfer them over to the operations team to execute the event. Problems arise when clients make last minute requests to their sales person that aren’t easily transferred to operations because the form has already left their control. Having a centralized digital repository for this kind of information can be a huge timesaver.
Team communication slow and mistake prone
When scheduling a meeting between employees takes half a dozen or more emails, it’s time to figure out a better way. The amount of time spent asking others when they’re free again and again must be one of the biggest time wasters out there. Having a common, shared calendaring system can make this problem far less of an issue.
When a team grows beyond a certain point, communication with clients or suppliers can sometimes shift from a single person, to more than one person. When this happens, the amount of back and forth between team members increases significantly with questions like “Hey, did you already contact the printers about when they will be delivering?” or when incoming sales phone calls are rotated through the team, having records of communication company wide saves the time and awkwardness of not being sure what had been previously discussed with a potential client. When this starts happening regularly, you have to ask yourself how eliminating the time needed to gather that information from other team members, and spending more time talking with customers would affect your revenue.
Formalizing and standardizing process
Sometimes after a period adding staff gradually, you end up with a team that individually perform well, but that all work with slightly different processes. Especially when growing a sales force, at a certain point it really helps to have everyone using the same methodology so that you can start to track aggregate data about what steps lead to a successful sale and what objections you are running into that cause you to lose sales. Taking the time to combine all the best ideas from your team to create a master sales playbook should improve everyone’s game and allow you to better predict future revenue numbers for your business.
If one or several of these issues are familiar to you, it may be time to start evaluating options for moving to business software that better suits your current needs. In our next article in this series, we’ll be looking at some ways to better research and compare products. Until then, as always, we’re happy to answer questions in the comments.