By: Tawnya Stone on September 2nd, 2021
It’s Time to Take a Good Hard Look at Your Technology & Processes
Updated on 9/2/2021. Originally posted 3/2/2017.Over the last 16 or so months, businesses have become increasingly creative, shifting to a remote work strategy and taking on new product and service lines to meet the quickly changing needs of their customers. As a technology provider, you had to quickly diversify your offerings in the middle of a global pandemic to ensure your customers had the latest technology to run their businesses. But how many of you came back to your own office only to encounter disparate systems or antiquated equipment surrounded by manual processes? Taking on new product and service offerings requires time and resources. The challenge is to figure out how to maintain your primary business while still devoting the time necessary to make improvements to your internal processes and technology so you can provide your customers with a top-notch experience. Now more than ever, technology providers need to enhance their processes with the same diligence they display with their customers.
Here are five questions to help you take a good hard look at the technology and processes you rely on to run your business.
How many systems does it take to run your primary business?
There is no single answer; however, the higher the number, the higher the risk. It is virtually impossible to use a single system for every part of your business, but what you choose must work together and share data as seamlessly as possible. There are two different categories when selecting a system: best in class vs. an integrated solution. Understand the advantages and disadvantages of both and determine which is the best approach for your business.
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 of errors and delays. The ideal situation is to reduce the number of times people must input information and ensure data is automatically passed between systems. If you decide to pursue best in breed, this is even more important to fully integrate the systems used across your process. When working with third parties, 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.
How many of your needs are not met with your business applications and require some manual tracking or intervention?
It’s unlikely any one system will meet all your needs, however, the amount of manual work surrounding your process indicates how ideal it is for your business. Evaluate what you are manually entering and what value it provides for your business. As needs change, sometimes the processes require adjustments to remain productive. If you find gaps, work with your software vendor to to seek ways to replace manual tasks with automated processes.
When you hire a new employee, how easy is it for them to learn your business applications and the processes 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 can’t or won’t. They aren’t used to the workarounds or know the tricks necessary to make your systems work. Encourage your new employees to ask questions, provide feedback and look for opportunities to streamline your processes and improve your operations.
How easy is it to get actionable data from your primary business applications?
Systems are needed to run your business; however, an overlooked element is using those systems to drive behavior. Data can be a powerful decision-making tool. If the data isn't available to make the decisions you need, add it. Monitor key metrics and use proactive alerts through the system when they fall outside your tolerance. Drive more consistent execution by using automated workflows triggered based on specific criteria or scenarios, eliminating the need to think about what needs to be done.
Challenge yourself by looking at your business from this viewpoint and seek a fresh perspective by getting feedback from someone that isn’t as close to the system. These questions are certainly not the only ones you should be asking as a business owner, but they will shed light on the areas of your processes that may need updating.
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Tawnya Stone, Vice President, Strategic Technology, is responsible for the overall strategic direction, oversight and implementation of customer-facing tools and products across various GreatAmerica business units. She works in close collaboration with business unit and functional leadership and external technology partners. Tawnya joined GreatAmerica in 2011 as an IT Project Manager and eventually evolved into subsequent roles that blended technology and customer facing activities. Prior to joining GreatAmerica she worked for Philips Electronics and Verizon Communications in the Washington DC metro area. Tawnya was the previous President of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) and Executive Council member of CompTIA’s Technology Lifecycle Services (TLS) Community and past Chair of CompTIA’s Managed Print Services (MPS) Community. She was recognized by ENX as Difference Maker in 2016 and 2018. Tawnya also is a member of the Technology and Operations committee within the ELFA.