At last count in our accounting firm we had 16 different systems that we use on a daily basis that all cover off a different part of our business functions. The amount of systems that businesses run has changed significantly over the last few years as it has become a lot less expensive to develop and deliver systems, cloud computing has made it a lot easier to access sophisticated systems, and mobile computing has changed the way people want to use their systems.
So, as a business owner, how do you choose what systems you should use and how you should use them?
- Why implement a system into your business?
For me this starts with a good understanding of the strategy of your business and understanding what are the key drivers for creating the results in your business. We can use a lot of systems because a particular team member likes them or they are fun to use but in a business you really want systems that make it easier to deliver the outcomes you want.
In this sense I think that systems that help you to effectively manage:
- Sales activities
- Customer relationships
- Team and individual productivity
- Performance and development of team members, and
- Business improvements
should be high on the priority list of a lot of businesses. It is also important when choosing which systems to implement that you get the team on board and can clearly demonstrate the business need for the systems you are implementing.
- What systems should I choose
When selecting any system you want to think carefully about whether you want your systems to talk to one another. If you do want this, then you might want to look at your most important system first and choose the system that is a best fit for you in that area and then look at systems that integrate with that core system.
For example if you have various systems that utilise client data, ideally you want those systems to integrate so that if you update a customer’s details then these changes get reflected in all your systems. If this integration is not built in to the core product and they are cloud based solutions then you can use a tool like Zapier to provide that integration for you.
I also find that when choosing a system you want to do your homework and, if you can do, find someone who is already using the system you are considering and get their feedback about it.
With most systems these days the small part of the cost is the system cost itself, the bigger costs is in the time involved in implementing it properly. So in this sense you want to make a good choice.
- How to implement systems
Once you have chosen a system to use then I recommend appointing a system champion and get them to drive the implementation. I see a lot of businesses doing minimal or no training on their systems but I think most training is well worth the investment. The majority of systems we use collect data of some form or another, and when this is the case it is really important to report on that data and examine it critically. This will then tell you whether data is being entered correctly and when it is the results you get from that system will be more meaningful. I also recommend that whatever system is being used there should be a regular meeting where the results of that system are reviewed and discussed.
A great tool for helping to manage system implementations is Basecamp. This is a high level project management and collaboration tool which is very flexible.
There is a lot to consider when deciding what systems you need, which system to choose and how to implement it, but in this day and age getting this right is critical to your ongoing success.
I will be speaking more on this topic at our upcoming seminar in Christchurch. Click here to register