posted by Tawnya Stone on Friday, March 03, 2017 in Office Equipment Blog

Have you ever had to bribe, threaten and plead your kids to clean up after themselves; however, take them anywhere else and they act like vacuuming is their favorite hobby?  I’ve come to the conclusion this is because it’s always more fun to explore and discover things that aren’t in our own environment.  The business world is no different. 

Dealers spend their days ensuring their customers have the latest technologies to run their businesses, but how many come back to their own offices filled with disparate systems, antiquated equipment surrounded by manual processes?  Sound a little like the cobbler who had no shoes?  I would like to challenge each dealership to approach their own operations with the same diligence by ensuring they are themselves using technology to enhance their own businesses.

Most dealers in this position don’t even realize it. If you are questioning if this applies to you, the answer is probably yes.  In case you are still wondering, here are five questions to help you determine if you need to "clean your own house".

  1. How many systems does it take to run your primary business? 
    There is no right answer, however, know that the higher the number, the higher the risk.  It is virtually impossible to use a single system for every part of your business, but it is imperative that the systems that you choose work together and share data as seamlessly as possible.  There are two different concepts when it comes to system selection:  best in breed vs. an integrated solution.  It’s important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of both and determine which is a better approach for your business.

  2. Is there manual entry required to get information from one system to the next system in your process?

    Any time there is manual entry there is a risk for errors as well as a potential slowdown in the process.  The ideal situation is to reduce the number of times people have to input information and ensure data is automatically passed between systems.  If you decided to pursue best in breed, this is even more important to fully integrate the systems utilized across your process.  When working with third parties, it is important to ask about their integration capabilities because many times you can be very efficient with your data internally, but then that efficiency falls apart during those interactions.

  3. How many of your needs are not met with your business applications and require some sort of manual tracking or intervention?

    There is no system that will absolutely meet all of your needs; however, the amount of manual work surrounding your process is an indication of how ideal the system is for your business.  It is important to really evaluate why you are manually tracking and what value it provides to the business.  As business needs change, sometimes the processes we follow don’t make the necessary adjustments to remain productive.  If you find it is still needed, try working with your software vendor to see if this need could be incorporated into the system to converting it from a manual process to part of the automated system. 

  4. When you hire a new employee, how easy is it for them to learn your business applications and the process surrounding them?

    Someone who has never been exposed to your process or your systems can be a great resource because they will ask the questions others either can’t or won’t.  They aren’t used to the various workarounds and don’t know the tricks necessary to make your systems work.  Encourage your new employees to ask a lot of questions, and based on their feedback, look for opportunities to streamline your processes and improve your operations.

  5. How easy is it to get actionable data from your primary business applications?

    The systems that you use are needed to run your business; however, many times an overlooked element is using those systems to drive behavior.  Data can be very powerful. If it is not translated into something meaningful to help you make decisions, you will either miss significant drivers or spend too much time looking for them.  You should have key metrics you are monitoring and your system should proactively alert you when they fall outside your tolerance.  Automated workflows can be triggered based on specific criteria or scenarios eliminate the need for thinking about what needs to be done and drives more consistent execution.

Looking at your business from this viewpoint can be challenging, and getting feedback from someone that isn’t as close can provide a fresh perspective.  These questions are certainly not the only ones you should be asking as a business owner, but they can be indicators as to whether your house needs a spring cleaning or complete disinfection. 

Resources: Visit www.greatamerica.com/integreat to see if we have technology integrations with your system(s) of choice and how other dealers are finding efficiences and savings. 

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About The Author

Tawnya Stone is Vice President, Enterprise Strategic Technology, at GreatAmerica Financial Services Corp. and past Chair of CompTIA’s MPS Community. She is responsible for the overall strategic direction, oversight and implementation of customer-facing tools and products across various GreatAmerica business units, working in close collaboration with business unit and functional leadership and external technology.

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