When we speak to business owners and operations managers, there are key signs we look for that show us their company needs a centralised management system. In this article, we share those telltale signs with you, so you can assess whether your business would benefit from an investment in bespoke software development.
Your business is successful
As we explained in our recent article What is a bespoke business management system? the first thing we look for in a client is that they are thriving; meaning they are an established, successful company that has grown organically over several years. Of course, other types of business would benefit from a system such as those we create, but ultimately your business needs to be of a certain size and complexity to see all of the benefits one can bring. Our ideal client has between 20-50 employees and is usually fairly local to us in Bournemouth, so it makes it easy to get together as and when a face-to-face discussion is needed to iron out any fine details.
You have many disconnected processes
As a business grows, processes and procedures are created to solve problems and to increase efficiency. However, when you have multiple departments, processes are often created independently of each other; salespeople have their processes, as do accounts and management and there’s often nothing linking them all together. It’s not just a disconnect between departments either, it’s all too common to see individuals in teams having their private processes too. All these processes result in what can only be described as organised chaos, yes, individuals and even teams are performing well, but collectively as an organisation, there is huge scope for greater efficiency.
Information silos exist
Closely related to disconnected processes is the creation of information silos, i.e. data and knowledge being scattered across an organisation. A scenario we often see is one where data is being stored in a multitude of locations which are largely disconnected from each other. Here’s a list of some of the most popular places to store company information:
- On a centralised server
- In some form of cloud system or storage
- On a desktop, or worse, a roaming laptop
- On a USB stick
- On a notepad or a piece of paper
- Someone’s head
All of these methods of data storage come with their pros and cons and we’re sure that within your company you encourage a certain procedure, but the truth is if that model doesn’t fit the circumstance, your team will work around it and you’ll end up with data all over the place.
Come the time you as a leader need a report on where a certain project is or how the company is performing from various perspectives, it’s almost certain that you’ll need to speak to several people and they’ll have to dig into their data repositories to get the answers you’re looking for
Lots of spreadsheets
Spreadsheets are an incredibly useful and powerful tool that allow individuals to organise large amounts of data and information quickly and easily. However, there are limitations and issues which come with using spreadsheets over, for example, a database. Firstly, spreadsheets are designed to only have at most a few people working on them at any one time, anything more than that and you’ll start to get conflicts and issues with your data. Secondly, the nature of spreadsheets is that they are independent files, meaning that they are easily stored in a variety of places, adding to the issue of information silos.
Third, spreadsheets are great at storing today’s data, but not very good at holding onto historical information. What tends to happen is that old data is overwritten with new, and you have no way of seeing what happened in the past. Finally, a spreadsheet can become slow and cumbersome when it’s populated with a large amount of data; the more information you contain within the spreadsheet, the slower the file will perform.
In contrast, a bespoke web application, running off the back of a database can support a near-infinite number of users, can store all the data in a single location and won’t suffer the same performance constraints.
Duplication of data
Disconnected processes, information silos and the extensive use of spreadsheets invariably result in one thing, data duplication. Without having visibility of other areas of the business and their information, it’s easy for different departments to duplicate the same data. The trouble is when you start getting conflicting reports, supposedly using the same data, you can have completely different views on the business. Simply put, the duplication of data leads to errors, inaccuracies and wasted time.
Lots of manual data entry and/or processing
When information isn’t flowing between departments you’ll still need to move it from one to another and what that usually means is a significant amount of manual data entry and processing, or to give it the more common name, copying and pasting. If you have people in your business that spend time moving data from one system or spreadsheet to another, it’s a huge waste of resources. They are doing work that could be automated and shouldn’t require any manual input at all.
Lots of subscriptions
Alongside the use of a variety of spreadsheets, most companies will have an extensive list of software subscriptions. Does your software list look anything like this?
- Office suite, inc email, word processing and spreadsheets
- Accounts software
- HR software
- Time management software
- Project management software
- Customer relationship management software
- Email marketing software
- Social media marketing software
- Customer service ticketing software
- Asset management software
- Productivity and note keeping applications
We’re sure there’s more and we’d love to see your list of subscriptions – probably the easiest way is to check with your bookkeeper to see what you pay out for every month. A bespoke management solution won’t replace all of the above – certain pieces of software are so specialised and good at what they do it’s simply not worth re-inventing the wheel. That said, a bespoke business system will reduce the number of subscriptions you need and in doing so better connect your departments.
Management information is always out of date
When you look at your key reports how old are they? Do several people need to compile information and then present it to you, or can you instantly see what’s happening across your entire business? Chances are if you don’t have a centralised piece of technology running your business, your data is always out of date, which makes decision making all the harder. To be effective as a leader and decision-maker, you need realtime information, not data from a day ago.
Forecasting is a difficult manual process
Forecasting for the future is almost impossible if you don’t have a reliable position of where you currently are. Yes, you can probably make educated guesses about the resources you’ll need if a certain deal does or doesn’t come off, but those guesses will be based on your experience and gut feeling rather than solid numbers.
Solving the problems with technology
A well built bespoke business management system, one where time is taken to properly mould it around your processes, can solve all of the problems we’ve detailed in this article and more. Your information is centralised, giving you a real-time picture of what’s happening in your business. Processes and teams are connected, duplication is eliminated, manual data entry minimised and forecasting for the future is as simple as clicking a few buttons. Yes, a centralised business management system can be that powerful and can turn an already successful company into an efficient, well-oiled machine.