It’s shocking how many businesses aren’t taking advantage of the strategic and functional boost that the right tech tools and processes could bring. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, meet ever-more demanding customer needs, and attract quality talent, then the chances are that you need to upgrade.
However, simply adding more technology without a plan isn’t an effective solution, and you’re more likely to get buried under an avalanche of tools needing administration and training seminars than to really boost your business unless you make strategic and selective choices on which tools and processes to bring on board.
Start by looking at processes that span your business. These are things that are used between and across departments, and they’re probably boring, rote tasks. If you’re a business owner or higher-level leader, then you may need to consult your staff before you can even identify these tasks.
There will be a lot of busy work that you simply don’t worry about, but be cautious about letting these simple things escape your notice. It’s human nature to look to your own problems and try to solve those pain points, but they may not be the ones that will result in the most significant savings or improvements in your business.
Implementing technological supports, fixes or replacements to dry, manual processes across departments offers a number of benefits. The existing process is probably not being followed consistently by all staff because it’s hard to train and enforce adherence to policies. Technology can prompt or enforce correct behaviors and reduce inaccuracies and errors that may be causing you more problems than you are aware of.
The best tech tools often automate predictable steps of a process. This reduces the potential for human error to be introduced and cuts down on staff time spent on boring, repetitive paperwork, improving job satisfaction and compliance at the same time. If they’re used for processes across departments, then that cuts down on friction and increases the potential benefit, savings and efficiency gains.
Integration is another important consideration. There may or may not be a purpose-built technology suite of tools for your sector and individual business needs, but more and more tools are being built with cross compatibility. This is incredibly important. If the tools that solve different types of problems, or that serve different departments in your business, talk to each other and pass information seamlessly, then you cut out a possible entry point of errors or tedious manual processes and see greater benefits across the business.
Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems claim to serve cross-department processes across businesses, but many of the biggest names in ERP technology are a few steps behind contemporary tools. Their clients tend to be on the conservative side, and the size of these corporations means that change is necessarily slow and gradual. You may have more success selectively bringing in tools for the problems that your business faces.
Finances, communications, the sales-marketing-customer service component, project management, and file storage and sharing are common business areas that can benefit significantly from the latest technology. Again, start by looking at the existing processes and how they work their way across departments. Even in the most segregated and siloed businesses, you’ll find that processes flow across traditional boundary lines.
If you can capture new prospect and customer data at the first point of contact during marketing or a sale, then that information can be used and augmented by the finance department, instead of starting over from scratch with a unique record. Project management needs to know the history of communication by the marketing and sales team. Finance and sales both influence project management schedules, which in turn feed back into accounts and new pursuits. If a single tool doesn’t meet the needs of all parties, then it at least needs to talk to the other tools being used and avoid dropping any critical information in translation.
Keith Krach has provided leadership to a number of different technology organizations and has brought that experience of both large and complex multinational corporations and process-oriented technology tools to his latest venture. DocuSign eschews the unwieldy world of ERPs to focus on solving one common challenge more effectively, albeit with integration to the extended network of an organization’s tools.
In any organization, there are certain documents that must be preserved in secure copies of record. These are often legal documents such as proposals, offers and contracts, invoices, and payments. They involve a signature, and some organizations still print them out on letterhead, use a pen to sign, and file copies in paper. DocuSign not only solves the challenge of how to securely and digitally process these critical documents, but it also automates and promotes correct processes in ways that a manual process cannot, ensuring that required parties are notified and approve documents for which they hold responsibility.
In some cases, there may be a clear, single industry-leading tool for the process that you need solved, while in others you may have more options available. Choose based on which solve problems that have the largest and most pervasive effect on your business, and which integrate seamlessly with each other for best results and the greatest savings and efficiency.