I just used my PC to sign a document. It took less than two minutes including having the document witnessed and it is now back with the lawyers in Sydney 900 kilometres away in a few seconds.
Another party to the issue is not a strong user of technology so she is a bit stressed that she needs to get from Balmain to the city today to sign the same document. Parking in the city alone will cost her over $40, so she can walk up to the office, be kept waiting while the lawyer gets off the phone and brings the document to her for signing.
OK so this is a personal matter, not business, but it was an eye opener for me on the time constraints of poor use or non-use of technology. How certain are you that you are making the best use of technology in your life and business?
Last week one of my clients told me he had improved a business process using his new installation of SAP B1 which replaced his MYOB system as the business expanded. He mentioned this process previously took close to an hour and a half to run and is now done in less than two minutes. As it is run several times a week he has just saved a day of labour a week with his new system on just one process. Yes, he had to invest to get to this point, but now he is confident his business can grow without the constraints of poor process.
Have you heard the saying that the fastest way to go broke is to grow too fast?
It is not the growth that kills the business; it may be poor cash flow management or the poor business processes that drive up cost to the point where the business is not competitive with other companies with better processes and systems. This in turn affects cash flow and profitability, sending the growth company either collapsing backwards or growing broke, potentially all the way into administration.
The key to business growth is strategy. Across all aspects of your business you need to think and act strategically with awareness that the processes, systems and thinking that got you to where you are is not going to get you to the next level.
Often we talk about plateaus or ceilings or the entrepreneur’s dilemma. These are all about the point at which your growth business turns from successful growth to reduced growth, stable performance or decline. Very few entrepreneurs set out at the start of the year to run a business through decline, but it is often the nature of the startup to lurch from level to level with the occasional decline.
In almost 13 years in business I have seen extraordinary growth some years, growth in a few, stability in others and what we politely call consolidation in a couple. The key to getting from slump to growth has always been better company-wide performance, and that is managed with good business systems.
IT is one of the components of a business that can impede your growth if you fail to give it due attention. If your systems are not performing, it is time to gather facts before taking action and apply some strategic thinking before rushing into the wrong tactical effort. All too often, IT investment is made in infrastructure, platforms or applications with a lack of strategic oversight and the desired outcomes are not achieved. It is better to follow a mature process to get a meaningful outcome. An example might be:
- Audit what is in place
- Identify gaps in applications, infrastructure and platforms
- Design a staged approach to upgrading
- Set sensible budgets and plan the return on investment (ROI)
- Implement the first stage of improvements
- Measure the ROI
- Review the plan
- Implement later stages
- Repeat stages 5 to 8 until it is time to go back to 1.
It is only with this style of continuous improvement and justifiable and strategic approach to implementing IT systems that you can hope to keep supporting a growing business.
In line with the idea that it is not the thinking that got you to here that will get you to the next stage, it is probably worth placing stages 1, 2 and possibly 3 with an independent organisation. This will provide a check on the current line of thinking and introduce the latest technologies and ideas. It may lead to options in technologies and options of price points that had not previously been contemplated, especially if cloud computing is not yet on your potential resource list.
David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that is known for solving business problems with IT. How can we help?