How IT can benefit or harm business operations.
If you are an athlete, would you wear smooth bottom shoes or high heeled shoes when everyone else is wearing cleats?
If you golf, would you use a putter where everyone else is using a driver?
While none of these tools would make you less of a driver, less of an athlete or less of a golfer, having the right equipment enables you to compete better – if you use it properly! For example, the best cleats in the world will probably be no good if you don’t lace, tie or strap them properly.
Your company’s Information Technology is no different. Your IT is an enabler – it allows you to do more with less, but the wrong technology or improperly or underutilized technology can do more harm than good. For example: A company had a new installation of a CRM system – a software solution designed to help businesses track relationships with clients, customers and the marketplace.
What is seen, often, is that a CRM system, whether Act! or Microsoft Dynamics is used for one or two of three purposes:
- a glorified contact list, meaning that contacts are kept in the system, but aren’t updated with any frequency and aren’t contacted with any sort of regularity in order to build or enhance a relationship.
- to track active sales leads, meaning that older leads or opportunities may be overlooked (i.e. revenue missed) because a prospect was not ready to buy at the time the sales person was looking for them to buy!
- to manage the sales team, meaning that management’s goal with the CRM system is to track the behaviors on a quantitative level (number of leads, meetings, calls, prospects, etc.), not as an enabler for the sales force.
A CRM system is designed to do all three of these things, but the mail purpose is for the company to be able to dig deeper in creating business intelligence about the marketplace, leads and prospects. Properly managed, you can learn a lot about buying habits – why people buy, when, how they might approach a buying scenario, types of information they might be looking for, etc. As a user, you could technically put every company in your target market into the system and track information about each company so that you know when the best time to pursue them will be, based on changes and trends in the marketplace, technology, legislation, etc.. Properly leveraged, a CRM system can give your company another strategic advantage.
Another component of the IT system or environment has to do with business processes. One of the mistakes that many businesses have made has to do with attempting to make a company work within the way an IT solution is designed rather than purchasing a solution that works within the company’s processes. This is why so many operations management developers attempt to make their solutions highly customizable and “integratable” with many other software solutions. When you try to redesign the company’s processes around the software solution, the solution becomes less of an enabler and more of an obstacle. Can it be done? Surely. But at what cost?
An example of where this seems to be successful is in the many cloud-based solutions that are coming available. Many computer users are typically used to saving their work on a local drive. Microsoft and Google both addressed this issue by making seamless integration between desktop software and the cloud environment. A user can simply save their document to a folder in the cloud without changing the way they typically work. DropBox, Box and other solution accomplish this by allowing the user to save to a local file like they normally would, but synchronizing the folder to a location in the cloud.
These examples are enablers because they reduce the need for management of portable storage for mobile workers, on site storage with self-managed backup systems and onsite technology pros to maintain and update the systems, ultimately reducing operational costs, decreasing the risk of loss of data and enabling workers to access their information from anywhere they could access the internet, meaning sales teams don’t have to trudge back and forth to the office to get more or updated product information, update client information, proposals and presentations.
If your goal is to build an extraordinary company, you will want to leverage technology to give your company a strategic advantage. In order to get the greatest return on your IT investment, you will want to get the most appropriate technology that can work within your company’s structure that enables processes rather than acting as an obstacle.
Rick Meekins is the Managing Consultant at Aepiphanni, the trusted advisor for business leaders who are seeking forward-thinking solutions to help them plan for and navigate through the challenges of business growth. Our entrepreneurial multidisciplinary team works with clients to develop differentiating solutions and provide direction focused on lasting, strategic results. We exist to help our clients CREATE | DESIGN | BUILD extraordinary businesses.
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