It’s Time To Upgrade: A Guide For Planning When And How To Spend On Business Systems
Discomfort becomes uncomfortable with time if things do not improve. It is critical that you as a leader plan how to succeed and how to react to failure (or better put, how to react to opportunities to learn). In this article, I’ll share a typical example of how a business becomes siloed and what you can do to plan for a business transformation when you’re faced with this challenge or others. If you don’t plan, the pain of creating a change can be overwhelming.
The Phases Of Siloed Discomfort
The classic example of how a business becomes siloed over time and with growth goes as follows:
Phase One: Manual And Repetitive Operations
Example: The business operator is happy when there are leads coming in on one side of the business from sales and marketing — while at the same time, finance is reporting manually. However, since sales and expenses are just ramping up, it doesn’t take much time to manage processes manually. Status: The organization is comfortable but moving toward discomfort.
Phase Two: Redundancy And Segmentation Of Information
Example: Over time, the volume of information will become too large, and the people or teams managing spreadsheets manually may be frustrated they are wasting time on tasks that used to be easy. Generally, this situation can create demoralized, unmotivated team members who know they are not adding enough value. Sometimes you’ll see companies hire more staff, but this Band-Aid only lasts so long. Status: The organization’s discomfort is becoming worse.
Phase Three: Hard Evolution Of Systems
Example: Then, the next pain leaders feel tends to involve redundant information for reporting. Over time, having separate systems can cause the data to be inaccurate. This means your management team may be making decisions with incomplete or bad information, which can create other types of confusion. Status: The organization is living with the discomfort.
Phase Four: Difficulties Of Growth
From there, you may see siloed departments develop, which causes challenges for growth because when departments or teams don’t know how they fit into the bigger picture, they can only achieve what they know in their small area of the business. Status: The organization is fully uncomfortable, and the problem is causing critical blockages.
Moving Past The Discomfort
So you want to solve problems like silos proactively before they hurt your business. That sounds good. As a business operator or CEO, It is key that you are implicated in the planning itself because it’s likely that only you know all the nuances of your business. A lot of times, business operators are reluctant to upgrade because: • They see the cost, but not tangible benefits. • They lean on the idea of “don’t replace it if it’s not broken,” ignoring the concept of scalability. To make the right decisions, it’s important that key stakeholders create and document a proper roadmap so that all initiatives are accompanied by a budget, priority level and tangible benefits.
Creating Your Business System Road Map You have heard it before: The first step toward solving a problem is to admit you have a problem, whether that’s a siloed organization or a different challenge. The next step is to reflect and then create a plan to go from the problem to the solution by improving your business systems. This is when you should brainstorm ideas, think about what is realistic, and push yourself and your team to think outside of the box to solve your problems. You may consider talking to your strongest key players, including stakeholders that are not directly involved. A great way to find a solution to your business problem is to create a road map — with some flexibility to react if things do not go exactly as planned (because they almost never do).
To create your roadmap, you can:
- Decide when you have time to invest in the plan and who will be responsible for it.
- List the requirements and wishlist for your new business systems. Include your department leaders in this process and think about what you want to happen with your business in the short- to medium-term. Consider what is critical, dependent and flexible on this list. Ensure you know your priorities.
- Prepare a budget you are comfortable with in the short- to medium-term. If you remove another system, will your budget increase? If you minimize redundant jobs, will your budget change?
- Validate your ideas to see what is possible based on your processes, requirements, and budget. At this point, you want to select your business systems (even if it’s on a temporary basis) and check if and how they will work together.
- Prepare a deployment or rollout plan, which you can base on time, metrics and benchmarks.
- Create a change-management plan to support your system upgrade.
- Ensure that roles, timelines and meetings are made, defined and attended to while you’re assigning responsibilities and tasks.
- Be open and prepared to adapt the road map based on any changes to the situation or application features. From here, you should do the research for short-, medium- and long-term solutions. You should compare costs and features of different solutions.
If you don’t know what to Google for and are considering cloud solutions, check out my last ForbesTech Council article: An Introduction To Cloud Systems Terminology.