Is it Time to Make New Software Investments?
As an executive, are you feeling pressure to invest in new business software? If so, how can you determine whether your business will really benefit from such an investment? Can you figure this out without being a technical expert, knowing that you will be dealing with an industry known for buzzwords, fads, and ever changing players?
From our experience, you can, if you approach the problem primarily from a business perspective, rather than a technical one. Like any other business investment decision, this begins with a good understanding of the current state and where you want to go.
How Well Does Your Software Serve You and your Customers?
Start by observing your employees, as they use your systems. Since you will be looking for business problems – a good understanding of your business processes and objectives is all you need.
Your customer service, finance, accounting, and sales team all have to live with your business applications every day. If your systems frustrate them (or worse, your customers!), or your systems make it hard for your employees to serve your customers, the software is holding you back.
1) Look for inefficiencies: Are your people using workarounds or additional systems (like spreadsheets), because the systems don’t do the whole job? Are they entering the same data into multiple systems? Does it seem to take a long time to train a new employee?
2) Check for security and accuracy problems: Think about confidential, or at least important, information that your business manages. Ask your staff in different departments to look up a few specific records for you. Does the information match across systems and departments? Is it too easy for employees to see or change information without approval or verification? Could the information be copied and shared?
3) Test for performance and growth capability: Observe your staff members who deal with customers. Do the systems respond quickly enough to provide a great customer experience? At peak volume, does it slow to a crawl? Ask your staff what they think would happen if the information or transaction volume doubled.
4) Find out how much your business is at risk: For all of your commercial applications, is the provider still in business? Do you have a support agreement in place? If you have custom software, who wrote it? Will they, or can they, still support it? Is the system sufficiently documented to allow someone new to modify or upgrade it? Was the software created with the long-term goals of your business in mind, or was it written to fill a gap?
Simply asking these questions will go a long way toward uncovering how well your current systems meet your business needs. No buzzwords are required.
Jim Beattie is the President & CEO of Artisan Technology, based in San Ramon. Since 2004 Artisan has been crafting custom software solutions that streamline business processes, achieve operational efficiencies, and bring new products to market for corporations, non-profits and government agencies. www.artisantec.com, (925) 989-2272