As business owners & operators, we understand that technology is essential to running our business. The pandemic changed everything, though. Technology went from essential to absolutely critical. Think about this for a second. How many of you didn’t know what Zoom was before the pandemic started? I would bet a decent number of you didn’t. Now it is ingrained in popular culture. I did because I worked at a financial technology company with an office in San Francisco.
Technology systems play an increasingly more prominent role. Due to lockdowns, remote work, and a rapid shift in consumer preferences to BOPIS (buy online pickup in-store), curbside ordering, and delivery, it has never been more important that business owners start to think about their relationship with technology systems. According to a McKinsey Consulting study, digital transformation has accelerated by several years (3 to 7 years). The great resignation will also cause long-term shifts for employees towards remote work and hybrid work models (a mix of in-person and work from home).
This information isn’t exactly breaking news. I am sure that these developments will create gaps for businesses between the current state and the desired state. Adopting technology systems will play a crucial role in filling the gaps and allowing businesses to evolve. What are technology systems? They are ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management), POS (point of sale), Project Management (Asana, Trello), and Collaboration (Google Workspace, MS Office 365).
Tip #1: Prioritize your business’s goals and map them to challenges.
Every business has several problems. A perfect business does not exist. It becomes imperative that high-priority goals are set and ranked. If goal setting is new to your business, I suggest picking 3 (see below for a better idea). In order to solve problems in business, there must be goals in place. Examples of SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound):
- Increase revenue by 15% over the next year.
- Reduce expenses by 25% over the next year.
- Improve employee retention by 14 months over the next 18 months.
Next, create two or three key questions (examples below) that must be addressed and then map them to each goal. It establishes a methodology to reverse engineer a path to achieve the goals identified. This process will help reveal the gaps that the business must overcome to achieve its goals. In addition, it will help create structure regarding how the business sets and plans goal setting.
- What are the barriers to achieving those goals?
- Are there systemic issues preventing the business from achieving these goals?
We didn’t mention technology, but more than likely, technology systems will be part of the equation to achieve the goals. Regardless, the exercise will create visibility into the solutions required agnostic to whether technology systems are involved or not.
Tip #2: While evaluating technology systems, define 4 or 5 criteria for selection.
In the technology world, dominant brands are often selected only due to their name recognition. Long term, this might not be the best decision for your business. Due to this dominance, these technology providers can often command a premium. This may not be problematic, but the broader implication is that the system may not be the best fit for the business.
Each business has different considerations. For most, the price will be a major consideration. For example, when comparing CRM solutions, Salesforce may charge $120 each month per license, while Monday.com charges $10 each month per license. This is a considerable difference. The organization needs to determine other important factors to selecting the technology system.
Create a scorecard with selection criteria and weighted metrics. Generally, the business will assemble a steering or selection committee that evaluates and rate different solutions during demos. This approach ensures an objective, bias-free process is followed to identify the solution that fits the business needs best. In addition, this exercise will push the business to think about the most important aspects of choosing a technology solution.
Technology is one of the wisest investments a business can make. It can also be one of the biggest expenses for a business, so the selection process should be thoughtful. Stakeholders should also be engaged. Ideally, users of the future system should have a voice because their ability to use the system efficiently will define the long-term success of the implementation.
Tip #3: When implementing new systems, the ability to change is finite
One aspect businesses may overlook when implementing new technology systems is that a business’s ability to change is limited. Keeping that in mind, as the old saying goes, “you need to pick your battles.” That’s precisely the reason for defining the goals above. When push comes to shove, what’s more important. The process of change management impacts:
- Resources (employees, finances, physical, etc.)
- Operations (i.e., the way things are done)
- Knowledge (learning new tools and ways of working)
Business leaders need to understand that humans operate businesses. There will need to be a structured process of planning, training, user acceptance testing, and cut over to the new solution to increase success. Many businesses fail to execute one or more of the steps above, and the results are less than stellar. Often, businesses feel that implementing and adopting technology solutions is a risk. An even more considerable risk, though, is the status quo. Change is constant, and failure to innovate leaves businesses less competitive.
Businesses that are less competitive closedown eventually. Their competition can connect with customers in fresh, new ways, and eventually, customers flock there no matter how good your product or service may be. In a post-pandemic world, convenience and the ability to meet the customer’s preferences is the name of the game.
Nilesh Mehta is the Founder, CEO of Independence Bridge Consulting, a technology consulting firm. He has spent over ten years working in finance and technology in various settings, including large enterprises, wall street, and startups. One of his passions is empowering businesses to realize their success so they can thrive and create jobs for their community. He started a consulting firm to assist retail & hospitality organizations to cure the headaches associated with business system implementations.