There’s a lot going on in the world today which might have you thinking we’re in a fabulously advanced state of being. And in many respects, that’s quite true. After all, just about every one of us carries around a pocket-sized computer capable of miraculous functions like navigation, translation, accessing all human information (and pictures of cats) immediately and so much more.
But is this level of personal advancement matched by your business systems?
The answer, for many companies across New Zealand (and no doubt, elsewhere) is a resounding ‘no’.
And yes, that is a generalisation drawn from our own experience in the field, which means only you can answer for your business.
Be that as it may, these are the common signs we see in businesses every day which point to rather-less-than-modern ways of getting things done:
- Spreadsheets everywhere and for everything.
- Manual, paper-based processes for multiple tasks (accounts payable, employee onboarding/HR, purchase requisitions, etc).
- ‘Swivel-chair integration’, where people manually enter data from one system to another
- Fax machines, scanners and thumb drives…along with all the printers supporting those paper-based processes.
- Multiple systems that don’t talk to one another.
- The telephone and email are primary tools for ‘getting work done’.
The weird thing today is that personal technology has, in many respects, far outstripped the capabilities and quality of what you get in the office. In the old days, only businesses could afford the ‘latest greatest’ things, like fax machines. For example, in 1965 a Xerox 914 cost US$27,500. You couldn’t afford that for home use today, never mind in the Sixties. Weighing in at a hefty 294 kilogrammes, it wouldn’t fit in a pocket either.
All that’s been thoroughly turned on its head to the extent that personal technology is now the yardstick. And if your business technology isn’t measuring up, it should tell you one thing loud and clear: there are efficiency and performance gains to be made. It worked in your personal life, after all (imagine not having your smartphone for a day) so it will work for your business, too.
Where to start (also, how did it come to this?)
A key starting point for modernisation is to consider your company’s ‘core’ systems: the financial stuff. If that consists of an accounting package, augmented with some or all the bulleted measures above, it could be time to consider a modern ERP system. Of course, at Verde, we’d be more than happy to help with that process, and help move you to an integrated, company-wide, single system to handle just about everything (you will, however, still must make the tea).
Now, before we get into that, it’s worth considering scale, too, as a measure of whether modernisation is right for you, now.
Bigger businesses will feel the pain of being mired in the past more acutely than smaller ones will. Paper might work fine for a small operation, but as the company gets bigger, paper swiftly goes from being a lubricant for business processes, to choking operations
(Note that ‘size’ is a bit of a misleading metric, since a company with few people can nevertheless have complex information and system requirements, while one with many people can have simple requirements. ‘Bigger’ therefore essentially means ‘complex’; complexity routinely grows along with business expansion over time).
The happy fact of growth is often the reason why so many companies find themselves stuck in the past. After all, most businesses start as an idea and with a shoestring budget. Inexpensive solutions, workaround and ‘Number 8 wire’ are advantageous at this stage. The most important part of getting the job done, at this juncture, is low cost. At the early stage, this is what’s important, rather than efficiency or performance.
But there comes a time where the past must be left in the past. If your company has grown substantially, if you are feeling the ‘data overload’, if the problems which come with scale appear to be slowing things down, affecting quality or performance, then now is the time to enter the modern era. This is the point where ‘cheap’ must give way to ‘good’. And doing so could very well spur your company on to even bigger and better things.