I get one question all the time from high-growth executives, “Can technology make us more profitable?”
Oftentimes, their companies already use systems for accounting and CRM (Customer Relationship Management), and they are not sure (1) what processes could be improved and (2) if there is a business case to improve them.
Over the years, we’ve identified some very clear indicators for when it’s time to invest in technology to improve processes (and your bottom line); some indicators are so obvious it hurts because you’ll wish you thought of it earlier while other are subtle. Either way, if you see these indicators in your business, I recommend talking with someone to review the ROI of implementing a potential change.
Paper, Lot and Lots of Paper.
If your processes involve a lot of data collection via paper (especially out in the field), and then workflows on that paper, it’s time to look at a solution to reduce the volume of paper.
- Errors – Any paper-based data collection is prone to errors and omissions.
- Redundant Data Entry – Chances are, some or all the data collected will need to be digitized at some point anyway.
- High Cycle Times – Your process can only move as fast as the paper can flow through (a delay and cost if that paper comes from the field).
- Labor Intensive Reporting – If your work orders are on paper, someone must physically count them every time you want to know how many are open.
- Lack of Real-time Visibility – Until that information gets into some system, you can’t report on it. Which makes management decisions much harder.
- Lack of Quick Search – Searching for a paper can be the proverbial “needle in the haystack” instead of a 5-second search if that data was digital.
Field Employees Spend Egregious Amounts of Time Onsite Entering Data
A company pays fields employees for just that – to be in the field. If they are spending significant time daily going to a desktop computer to enter data related to work they performed in the field, that’s just wasteful.
- Errors – Field employees must work on memory or handwritten notes from the time in the field.
- Lost Opportunity – For many companies, your clients could approve work while crews were onsite and tracking clients down for an approval takes time and costs more money.
- Morale – Chances are your field employees love it in the field, and riding a desk isn’t particularly fulfilling to them.
- Missed Billings – Because your field employees hate coming back to the office to do paperwork, they usually put it off to the last minute and must work from memory, so they forget to include things the company should charge for if noted in the field.
- Waste of Everyone’s Time – Besides the cost of missed billings, errors, and lost opportunities, the cost for your field team to travel back to the office periodically adds up quickly. Plus, your office staff probably must remind (nag) your field employees for that data, which wastes their time as well.
Everything Is Electronic, But I’m Not Sure Which One to Use
One thing companies like about paper is that at least you know there’s one copy of work order #12345. When everything is ‘electronic’ but sitting on a File Share, you have all the problems of paper and even more problems with version control.
Siloed Software Systems
Using Salesforce for lead tracking and estimates? Great! Have an awesome work order system? Fantastic! Using an accounting system that most CFOs would droll over? Awesome! Are they connected? Probably not.
If not, you know these too well,
- See Paper List Above – You are subject to some or all the issues with paper-based processes and their inefficiencies.
- Contradicting Data – Merging and sharing data gets complicated because it is different in each system, such as the client’s latest mail address, credit card on file, or John’s time for last Thursday.
- Morale – People generally don’t enjoy spending 10 hours per month doing things like converting timecards from your operations system into Invoices in your accounting system.
- Below Your Paygrade – Because information is siloed, many executives spend inordinate amounts of time gathering data for board meetings or to collect metrics to create proper forecasts.
Overhead Cost Grows at the Same Rate as Revenue
This is quite possibly the most thought-provoking indicator we have here. If your company can only double your gross income by doubling your personnel, then you probably have a strong opportunity to see significant ROI by utilizing technology.
Let’s work with Acme Widget Co.
In scenario “A”, as the company grew their revenue they had to double their support staff, in functions like accounting, admin, and field support. In scenario “B”, they only had to grow by 20%.
How is scenario B possible? It’s possible because the processes supporting delivering the work product had the proper level of automation. If you’re trying to figure out whether your company needs process automation, go through this exercise.
If you see your company struggling with any of my examples (especially the last one), sit down with me and let’s map out your process on the whiteboard and see how technology can streamline your business. If someone told Acme Widget Co. they could make $3,000,000 more in profit by investing $100,000 in technology, I’m sure that CXO would make that deal in a heartbeat. (Conversely, if they didn’t I’m sure that CFO would be fired.)
Neel Sus began his entrepreneurial endeavors with Susco, a custom software development company that has quickly grown from a one-man operation to one of New Orleans’ leading software development companies.
Susco’s mission in action is to drive the prosperity creation through measured and innovative applications of technology that help people get more done. Neel was awarded the Louisiana Technology Council’s 2012 eWARD for Technology Leader of the Year and Susco has recently been added the NOLA100 high impact business listing.