One of the things I enjoy about working with clients in different fields is learning about their business, how they execute work and why they perform work in a certain way. It is fascinating to me that no matter the business focus or industry, there are certain common themes among the challenges they are facing.

Of course, “challenges” is a nice way of saying “problems.” All businesses, no matter how well run, have them. To make it more personal, I will share a quote running through my head from a musical group I was fond of in my youth: “I know you’ve had problems, you’re not the only one.” Know that as you face problems in your business and process, you are not the only one.

The aforementioned common themes that we see with clients can be simplified into two categories:

  • System
  • Process

Let’s dive into each a bit further…

System Failure

Businesses can experience system problems in a number of ways. First, they may have too many systems. Perhaps you collected an array of applications over the years, or maybe some of your departments went rogue and purchased their own? Whatever the reason, this proliferation leads to redundancy of functions across systems, wasted employee time and unnecessary technology dollar expenditures for implementation and support.

There are also legacy systems that are expensive to maintain and put the organizations at risk because they are based on unsupported technologies or held together with the proverbial duct tape and chewing gum.

When businesses do retire and replace legacy systems, it often involves large internal project teams to implement who are assigned work that distracts from their day jobs. As a result, the temptation exists, and is often acted upon, to push these systems to “go live.” Not ready for production use, but time, money or resources are strained so victory is declared and the implementation is deemed “good enough.”

Another major symptom of a system issue is siloed data. Poor, lonely data that could realize its destiny to help businesses improve customer service or increase revenue if it could just be shared across the enterprise. The same data points are mismatched in different systems for lack of an interface and require employee double entry or constant manual retrieval to be useful.

When Bad Process is the Norm

Businesses also have process issues that reduce effectiveness, lower employee morale and negatively affect the bottom line. This happens when processes are inefficient, unnecessarily complex and don’t address the real needs of the business.

One organization I once worked with required four approvals (on a paper form!) in three different departments to change something as simple as a misspelling of a word in a field in a system. This process didn’t serve anyone inside the process or touched by it. In fact, it was intensely frustrating to everyone involved. This consternation is often the case with paper-based processes that could easily be automated or simplified through technology.

There are also the arcane processes known to a small number or even a single person in an organization. We often see this manifested through an esoteric and unbelievably complex spreadsheet that is as easy to understand as quantum field theory. Do you have this single point of failure in your process? What would happen if that employee won the lottery and decided to immediately move to the Caribbean? Why expose your organization to such a risk?

It is for these reasons that we must develop a deep understanding of our client’s business processes to provide improvements, and be sure that any solution we offer is at the intersection of meeting business need and a smart application of technology. So, yes, we know you may have problems and challenges, but you are not alone! The good news is that these problems can be addressed and can help your organization down a road to increased efficiency, better utilization of resources, reduced cost and happier employees.