Everybody wants to run a successful business. Unfortunately, success isn’t always user-friendly. As your business grows, you will run into software inefficiencies, technical hang-ups, productivity problems, service snags, and management challenges.
The question is: how do you maintain your business momentum while addressing the unforeseen challenges that crop up along the path to success?
When Success Changes Your Plan
Success in business (or anywhere, really) will probably happen as more of an agile process than a waterfall one. In other words, success doesn’t always take the prescribed path. You can’t plan ahead for every challenge, and neither can you plan ahead for every breakthrough.
Just as the central tenant of agile methodology is adaptation, the key to business success is understanding when something has changed unexpectedly, and then making the necessary changes to move forward and build on success.
Here are eight software challenges you may have to change as your business experiences newfound success:
1. Old methods of recordkeeping and reporting don’t work anymore.
Spreadsheets may have worked when you ran your business out of your home office. But now that you have twenty employees and a constant influx of new work, Excel isn’t going to cut it anymore. That’s true for tracking products and shipments, handling sales, navigating customer interactions, managing finances, and analyzing any other information you use on a regular basis. As your data storage and real-time analysis needs grow, so will your frustration with the same old spreadsheets.
2. Your software can’t handle the influx of data or quantity of work.
Maybe you already have business software in place, but it doesn’t handle your data efficiently. This is often the case when data becomes siloed in various software systems that can’t “talk” to one another. When your software systems aren’t integrated, your efficiency suffers. And that costs you in terms of lost customers, frustrated employees, and missed business opportunities.
3. Your employees can’t get their jobs done effectively.
Do your employees have the tools they need to meet the needs of your customers on time and with good service? Can they find the information they need quickly and efficiently? Can they perform back-office tasks without resorting to manual workarounds? When the software can’t keep up with your employees’ job responsibilities, it has become a hindrance rather than an effective tool.
4. Productivity tanks.
One natural result of under-performing software is low productivity. Employees can’t serve customers, respond to leads, run reports, manage inventory, or complete work assignments efficiently with outdated software. When the quantity of work outpaces the abilities of your business strategy and software to support that work, it’s time for a change.
5. You have more projects in the hopper than time to complete them.
As your business grows, the amount of work coming in will grow too. Business processes and operations must coordinate and execute efficiently to stay on top of the extra work—but they often don’t. If your software can’t keep up with your business operations, your entire business will suffer.
6. You can’t make decisions effectively.
Are you ready to tackle a company merger? Expand into a new market? Compete in a new industry? Increase your inventory? Hire new team members? None of those decisions can be made efficiently when you don’t have software in place to support the process. That may sound like a strong statement, but consider this: your software should help you run reports, examine past performance, extract relevant data, identify key business drivers, and understand the needs of your business based on a rich data environment. If you don’t have access to that data or the tools needed to analyze it, you can’t know the best way to solve your next business challenge.
7. Employee morale takes a nosedive.
The future success of your business depends on having skilled, competent workers to manage your operations, provide leadership, and help you achieve your vision. But unstable and inefficient work environments sabotage employee morale, keeping team members from doing their best work. When employee morale suffers, your business as a whole suffers as well, and it’s almost impossible to maintain success.
8. The customer experience suffers.
The final outcome of these accumulated challenges is that your customer experience will suffer. This may play out in many different ways: poor user experience on your website, lack of communication from the sales team, lost or incomplete orders, lack of follow-up, inability to get questions answered—it all adds up to lost revenue.
If these things sound familiar, you’re not alone. We talk to lots of successful businesses that suffer from several of these eight symptoms. So what can you do about it? Here are four recommendations that we’ve seen work in multiple contexts.
1. Evaluate Your Current Technology
Growing businesses can’t rely on cobbled-together software systems—at least not for long. You can’t run an efficient, productive business without the software infrastructure to support it. That means you’ll need to evaluate your current technology and look for weaknesses that hinder business operations and productivity.
Start by asking these questions:
* Can your ERP (or CRM or supply chain or inventory management) meet the current and future needs of your business?
* Do you have enough data storage and the ability to upgrade?
* Do your systems integrate efficiently and in real time?
* What is user experience like, both for your internal software and your customer-facing applications?
* What software systems work well, and which ones create problems for your employees?
* Does your software have the functionality it needs to handle new markets or industries or product types as you expand?
* Do software inefficiencies cost you money or time?
* Do employees have to complete tasks manually that could be automated with software?
* Does your business software give you the operations support you need?
* Can you find the data you need, when you need it?
* Have you taken advantage of new technology innovations that could improve efficiency or productivity for your team?
2. Educate Yourself on What’s Possible
Once you know where you stand with your current software systems, take some time to learn what new possibilities have developed since you launched your business. Is moving into the cloud the right option for you? Would an updated mobile app or ecommerce system improve customer service? How can you give your employees a better user experience as they execute essential job functions?
3. Create an Improvement Plan
Next, distill those possibilities down into a list of which features and functions will deliver tangible business value. Which updates will make you more competitive, increase employee productivity, serve customers more efficiently, or give you a strategic business advantage? Your short-term improvement plan may include small changes and adjustments, while your long-term plan may involve a total makeover of your technology stack. Or it may make sense to replace all of your key system in one fell swoop. The key is to plan not just for next quarter or next year, but also for continued success and growth over time, while you spend money in a smart way.
4. Make Strategic Technology Changes
Stop running your business in crisis mode and begin thinking proactively about how you can address current needs and potential risks. You may not need a brand new ERP. Upgrading one or two modules or building a portal to sit on top of your current system may meet your needs. But if you do need a software overhaul, don’t be afraid to take that leap. At Worthwhile, we help clients develop a software solution that will overcome business challenges and improve the efficiency of the team—whether that’s a single app or an entirely new platform.
Conclusion: Keep Success Going
Current success doesn’t automatically mean you are set up for sustainable growth. To reach your next set of goals, you need a new plan that will support long-term, objectives. Invest in your employees. Protect your customer relationships. Delegate responsibility so executives can tackle new challenges. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone and commit yourself to a new strategy, even when that means changing the way you’ve always done things.
When you give your employees the tools they need for success, they will allow your business to continue riding the wave of success, no matter how unpredictable they may be.