Using Technology to Unravel the Complexity of Your Business
Last month in our “What we’ve been up to” section we noted that unraveling the complexity of business processes, software, data, etc. is one of our superpowers. We believe if you have a superpower, you should use it for good and help others. So, we wanted to share some of our knowledge and experience with you to simplify your business and work smarter.
Most all businesses have challenges that stem from various systems, structures, procedures, offerings, management, and the daily decisions the leadership of the business makes. Usually, the more complex something is, the higher the cost will be of doing business. Unraveling the complexity in your business ultimately boosts productivity, saves time, reduces costs, improves efficiency, reduces clutter, reduces lead time, improves customer service, and solves outstanding issues.
Of course, there is good complexity and bad complexity. Good complexity is sophisticated and logical by necessity whereas bad complexity is usually comprised of redundancy, confusion, bloated and/or competing offerings, and no logical thread that ties everything together. You need to eliminate the bad complexity that your customers are NOT willing to pay for and harness the good complexity your customers are willing to pay for.
So, what are a few things that may help?
We suggest you focus on the three basic areas to start with in which you can make a significant impact in your business: Communication, Integration, and Automation.
Communication: No matter who you are communicating with (clients, customers, internal staff, external partners, etc.), communication is a major key to a successful business. The bottom line is this…failed communication can result in a loss of revenue that can have a devastating ripple effect. If you use technology to help ensure communication is sent, received, delivered in the preferred format, and is just-in-time, it can ensure that nothing falls through the cracks. And if you also ensure that proper follow through happens then it can greatly increase sales and customer satisfaction instead of costing you a sale, creating an unsatisfied customer or developing a strained partnership. Technology can assist in communication with alerts and notifications, email/SMS reminders and auto responses, automated scheduling of tasks, appointments, and much more. Each business is unique in this area, but looking at how you talk to your constituents can often be a game changer in driving sales or reducing costs.
Integration: Integrating your different internal and external systems and devices allows them to talk to each other. This means data can be easily collected and shared across your systems leading to faster, more efficient, and a more productive business. When you integrate your systems and devices, you will expand your data capabilities. This will help you gain valuable insights, make informed decisions, illuminate opportunities based on the data, and you can even create a dashboard that provides a quick overview of the health of the business in real time, while aggregating multiple disparate sources of information. Knowledge is power, right?
Automation: When you automate specific workflows and activities it allows your team to focus on the important aspects of the business that cannot be automated. These are the so called “high value” tasks you want humans to perform. For anything repetitive, redundant or something that uses human capital that is not high value, automation should be considered. You can automate your business processes, data entry, online billing and payments, invoices, communications, and more. OPG often looks for those things that are done over and over again by humans that could just as easily be handled by a computer. These are areas that normally don’t require a large effort to automate, and save untold dollars in payroll, taxes, and other human capital costs. The point is, wherever you have a manual process that can be potentially automated, you should consider them for a technical solution. A one-time investment in solving that challenge will save your business tremendous amounts of time and money. An often overlooked option is to make your website smarter so customers can get what they need in a self-service format. One simple example is to provide your customers with a knowledge-base of common questions about your products or services and provide a tool to request assistance with smart routing to ensure their question goes to the staff member who can answer it fastest. Small tools like these not only save your business time and money, but they improve the customer experience at the same time.
How can you get started?
We suggest you start with one of the following approaches below to get started on your journey to improved efficiency in operations:
Option 1 – Go for the BIG win: Start with something that is a real resource drain, the thing you find to be very repetitive and eats up a lot of time and man hours or is obviously inefficient.
- Upside: This can create a HUGE Return on Investment (ROI).
- Downside: It may take a larger initial investment and more time to implement.
Option 2 – Go for the QUICK win: Start with one to three (1-3) small items that can demonstrate an improvement.
- Upside: Small and valuable wins can help get people on board for a bigger project as it shows the process and provides faster results.
- Downside: You may need to go through a few of these small projects to see a bigger overall impact.
What should you look for in your business? Here are a few suggestions:
- Look for areas in your business where people spend a lot of time doing repetitive tasks.
- Look for situations where the same data is entered multiple times in the same system or different ones (e.g. Sally copies the widget information from the customer system, pastes it into a spreadsheet and then someone else moves it from the spreadsheet to your internal business operations systems).
- Look for gaps in information that is collected. Sometimes just asking for a piece of information will make a huge difference in the value of the data that results.
- Look at your workflow and see what is truly needed and what is done just “because that’s the way we have always done it.”
- Take a close look at your data and ask yourself some of the following questions: What data is most important? Where is it being captured? How is it being used to make informed decisions, resolve issues, and uncover opportunities?
- Look at your departments (workflows, data, etc.) and see what they each do (what they really do, not what you think they do) and how they interact.
Too often small and medium sized businesses struggle with technology and shy away from embracing it as technology is typically seen as a hurdle to overcome. The opposite is actually true. With a trusted partner like OPG helping guide the design and development of solutions to overcome challenges, technology will be a reliable friend, not a foe. We’d love to talk to you further about how we can help your firm solve these challenges with smart technology options.
Take a look at our “What We’ve Been Up To” section below to see some ways we have helped our clients use technology to unravel the complexity of their businesses. Contact us today and see how we can help you cut the complexity and start moving toward elegant simplicity.
<code>What We’ve Been Up To</code>
Here is just a quick taste of the many successful happenings in our web and mobile software work at OPG for the last month. We like to feature a few key successes to keep the list short, so this is just a taste of the amazing effort of the OPG team recently.
- OPG onboarded several new clients in the last month. The focus areas range from consulting to system architecture and planning and even includes a new platform takeover and ongoing support (this is where we step in where another developer has left off and take the project forward, seamlessly). It’s exciting to welcome these new firms into the OPG family!
- For one client, their existing process for creating events in their WordPress based website was a mixture of API integrations with their internal backend and a lot of human effort to “tune things” once the integration tasks completed. OPG provided a solution that cuts the time needed to create and tune an event to minutes instead of hours per event! This adjustment to their platform will save many hours of repetitive work and data entry for each new event created, thus making the process of creating a new event fast and easy.
- Another client wanted to create a seamless experience for their customers when integrating a third-party billing and payment solution into their customer portal. The client didn’t want to require customers to leave their portal and go to a third-party application for payment, which disrupted the customer flow and created a friction point to sales. In response, OPG integrated a new payment provider to the platform using a “Single Sign On” approach. Customers may now login to the customer portal, select the option to make a payment and be seamlessly transferred to the payment screen. Additionally, customers may also review billing details, payment history and other actions, all without being aware that any of this technical magic is happening behind the scenes. The result? Happier customers, faster payments, and less work for the Client’s support staff. That’s what we call a win!
- OPG furthered development of an end-to-end business operations and management platform (an ERP of sorts) that it was asked to take over development of several months ago. OPG has worked closely with this client to define a budget for the actions required, establish a set of priorities for development, to execute on those development priorities, and roll out releases on a consistent, predictable basis. This platform contains three (3) separate user portals, a high-volume API, and native iOS and Android mobile applications. OPG is also working with this client on deploying a “high availability” hosting solution to further strengthen the overall platform. End-to-end services are something OPG takes great pride in and couldn’t be more pleased to have the pleasure of working on this essential platform to this client’s business operations.