We may be seeing the economy begin to turn for some, but times are still tough for many right now. So it is important that we look at our company systems and ask if they are delivering on the company objectives.
I have never seen a company objective that says this year we will drive risk up and costs down. I see objectives to increase revenue and margins and, occasionally in tough sectors, to control costs.
In a recent appearance at CloudWorld in Sydney, some interesting stats were shared by Bob Evans of Oracle: 80% of IT budget is spent on maintenance. Typically, 5% of a company’s revenue is spent on IT. So 4% is being spent on a commodity that does not improve competitiveness
I have spoken at length about IT systems driving productivity, which is about getting work done for a lower total cost, but I have not talked about systems driving larger revenue. So what IT systems might drive greater revenue in a business? How can a cost centre like IT be considered to deliver revenue increases?
The marketing people who work on website development and SEO would tell you that IT is driving revenue. I would argue it is marketing making use of a technical media.
However, there are obvious areas where better systems might drive sales to succeed in tough times. Getting better IT systems for marketing, especially connecting with and managing your social networks better, will add value.
Then let’s not forget the humble sales management tools for Customer Relationship Management.
This can ensure your sales are tracked, your leads are followed up on and that requests from your clients are actioned promptly enough to ensure they buy what they will buy from you rather than a competitor.
I think we can all agree a more productive sales team with better reporting and accountability will contribute to greater revenue. It sure makes it transparent when the sales team gets depressed and sales effort is reduced. That can’t hurt right?
If you have a customer service function in your business are you tracking the requests and ensuring you are really looking after your clients? How many billable jobs never get done simply because the request for service or product fell off a busy person’s plate? Ouch, that is a revenue reducer.
For example, have you tried to get your landlord’s agent to complete a maintenance task lately? If you are a tenant you know how hard it is to lodge a maintenance request and have it acted on in a timely manner. The building owner probably wants the water leaks fixed quickly but the agent’s tracking system can let the job drag on for months.
In manufacturing, there are work flow and inventory management tools and ERP systems that allow more sales to be serviced by a more efficient process without expanding operations or employing more staff.
Then there are business intelligence systems to aid faster decision-making to allow measurement of company metrics to ensure targets are met, and to allow faster innovation and better tracking of wins and losses. A good Dashboard may help display the reporting results in a dynamic way that lets you minimise the losses and maximise the wins in your business.
All these IT systems should be reinforcing your business processes to ensure fewer errors and reduced cost of processing opportunities through to money in the bank. If you respond to opportunities too slowly in this market someone else will respond faster and reduce your revenue. Having well-aligned systems that support sound business processes will ensure you win the most business at the lowest possible cost to survive downturns and come out the other side well placed to lead your market place.
If this sounds like sound advice but you don’t know where to begin in reducing effort and increasing opportunities, it may be time to get a fresh set of eyes on your business to help uncover the things you don’t know but need to.
As global markets stumble, and small and medium businesses fail faster than they have for many years, it is not the time to be complacent. We need to have good systems, good reporting without time lags, good budgets and plans we are held accountable to.
Like it or not, computers are the key to this success for any business with more than a few staff.
And another very important thing…
The SME Digital Technology Survey
Until April this year, the four Melbourne Metropolitan Regional Development Australia (RDA) Committees are conducting a business technology use survey looking at the current and future IT issues and plans of businesses across Melbourne.
This is a free government-funded service to all businesses in Melbourne, conducted by Northern Melbourne RDA, supported by the Melbourne East, Southern Melbourne and Western Melbourne RDAs, and delivered through state government and local councils.
I am keen to see this survey promoted because after 11 years of going into thousands of SME businesses and talking to business owners and managers, I am very aware there are critical issues with the services small businesses are being offered and the quality of systems being implemented.
I strongly believe this survey will highlight the need for better education and availability of assistance to SME business owners to implement better systems to drive business productivity and to reduce business risk.
The more data that is collected, the stronger its influence will be on decision-making and policy making in government and other regulatory bodies.
The survey has already received hundreds of responses but thousands more would create a great outcome. If you complete the survey you will also get the results of the survey sent to you in a comprehensive report once the results have been assessed. This will allow you to do some benchmarking to understand where you are at compared to the general business community.
There are plans amongst the RDAs to then target training courses for the business community to attempt to address some of the issues highlighted in the report. There is no doubt that Australian business can gain a lot of productivity improvements through better use of technology, so please take this opportunity to share how you are going with ICT.
Go to www.ictmelsurvey.com to take part – five iPads must be won!
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.