by : Gene Marks
Want the right technology to help grow your business? Then don’t think so much about the software. Or the hardware. Instead, focus on the data. That’s because software and hardware don’t really matter as much anymore.
Of course, you need to have good, fast devices. Yes, you need applications that are well-supported, work wherever, and enable your people to be as productive as possible. But these technologies are really only about accomplishing one critical thing: doing what’s necessary so that your company has complete and accurate data for it to succeed.
The successful leaders and managers I work with know this. They know that we live in a Big Data world. They realize that their company’s data is every bit as valuable as any other asset on their balance sheet. They understand that without the right information it’s very difficult to service customers, identify opportunities, manage their employees, control costs, monitor activities, stay on top of problems, and keep a close watch on their company’s profitability – down to the very last job shipped out the door. The right information is fundamental to making the best decisions and the right investments to guide their organizations forward.
So how good is your data right now? Do you have the right controls in place to ensure that the data going into your system is accurate and complete? Do you have the right people in place to ensure that the data is being updated, managed, and analyzed in the most effective manner? Do you have the right technology in place that makes your data valuable and accessible while still keeping it secure? If you plan to move from a spreadsheet to an enterprise system, a startup to an established company, a small concern to a big operation, these are the questions you should be asking.
Your data will rely on the software you choose, and your company’s software (and the hardware used to enter and retrieve information) will serve as the critical portal for its data. So what software should every leader of a small company put in place if they expect to one day be a larger company? In my world, I see three types of applications that drive growing organizations.
1. Financial accounting: ERP
The first is finance-driven. These are accounting, enterprise resource planning, purchasing, inventory management, and order-entry processing. They are for warehouse control, shop-floor organization, job costing, and project management. These applications enable your day-to-day transactions to flow and ensure that your company is getting invoices out the door, sending payments to its suppliers, and cutting paychecks for employees. But more importantly, these applications drive the organization’s internal financial processes governing its money: forcing necessary approvals, authorizations, workflows, and analytics that enable the organization’s management to run the company in a sustained and independent manner, even without the principals present. A strong financial application provides the backbone of any growing company.
2. Improve customer experiences: CRM
The second is customer-driven. This means customer relationship management (CRM). These applications ensure that all team members are sharing and collaborating with the information essential to providing the best service possible for their customers and that nothing is falling through the cracks. Growing companies use CRM to integrate their calendar, email, service, and sales applications so that prospects are being pursued, customers are being watched, and everyone in their community is being “touched” at regular intervals to ensure a strong and close relationship. There was a time where a company could operate effectively without a CRM application. Those times are gone. Great and growing companies know this. Customers expect to be treated like family, and only these types of applications enable that to happen.
3. Optimize HR functions: human capital management
The third is employee-driven. HR platforms have exploded in popularity over the past few years, which is not surprising, considering their value. These applications allow employees to keep track of their compensation, request vacation and sick days, update their personal information, and stay on top of their benefits. But more importantly, many of the leading human capital management (HCM) platforms provide state-of-the-art performance review and motivational tools that enable employees and their supervisors to collaborate on each other’s performances and give ongoing feedback to help them do their jobs better. Today’s employee demands this kind of relationship, and the best people will be drawn to companies who leverage this type of technology to help them be their best.
What do all of these critical applications share in common? That’s right: data.
All three of these applications sit on top of data. They are almost always cloud-based or, at the very least, accessible over the cloud. The best applications integrate seamlessly with each other so that companies can avoid the costs of duplicate data entry. These same applications are using analytics and artificial intelligence to not only analyze data but perform mundane tasks automatically. They help executives better interpret what’s going on, both internally and externally, from the time a prospect is identified to the moment when that prospect becomes a customer and cash is received.
So, to grow your company, ask your technology partner about the data. Invest in the right people, hardware, and software to ensure that you’re collecting that data fast, accurately, and completely. Make sure you and your key managers can get quick access to that data and it can be presented in a way that can be analyzed and evaluated. Smart executives have learned that, while software and hardware are important, a company’s technology is all about the information it has.