One thing that happened with many small to medium sized businesses during the pandemic was that they added a lot of digital products and services into their business mix. From project management tools to proposal products, HR tools, payment systems, CRM upgrades and new CRMs, analytics tools and video conferencing apps like Zoom and Teams. A recent client we worked with had five different project management apps across three teams along with task management apps and were running two different proposal apps (don’t ask.) Another had a team of 80 employees and were using two completely separate web-based (SaaS) CRM’s, one for inbound and another for sales. The sales and marketing teams weren’t on the same page. At all. Another company with 250 employees had seven different Trello accounts and three Jira accounts. None realized they’re all owned by Asana and they could’ve had one enterprise account to management them all.
Other businesses we’ve worked with are very agile and they add digital tools to get jobs done, but sometimes those tools don’t play well with others. This can actually cost a lot to fix later. Especially if you need to get to a place with one source of data truth. While many apps connect with other apps, they may have very different data structures. Remember, pretty much every single app is just dome kind of database. All these tools do is help you manage information. How they come together is a whole other issue.
Hey, we did what we had to do to get the jobs done that ensured our customers got what they bought, or what they expected to get when they bought. What’s really interesting about this is that while it may now be a mess, it showed the dedication of entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized business owners to deliver, to keep people employed and to grow their business during the pandemic.
Now? It’s time to step back, take a breath and get things cleaned up. To assess what you have, how and why each team or person is using the tools they use. Not doing so can lead to confusion at the accounting level, customer confusion (which can lead to lost customers who think you’re not very well organised), delivery delays and increased tension between IT and the rest of the company or between departments who have different data and metrics. It can also lead to knowledge being lost when applications are dropped.
In other words, a right proper kerfuffle.
So what to do? Naturally, our perspective is to bring in an outside professional who can assess things and get you sorted. You may want to do this internally as well. But remember you got yourselves into this situation. That’s not a criticism. Not at all. It’s all the result of trying to do the best you could and with good intentions. But it can be tough to be your own critic.
How to Sort a Digital Tool Kerfuffle:
- Assess the tools you have brought in. If you have a lot of on-premise IT, you need to know what you’re using internally and what digital apps and services you’re buying. Inventory time.
- Next, you need each tool to be justified not just by the job it gets done, but also how it helps other departments/teams get their jobs done. Data or information silos are anathema to a digitally mature business. Collaboration is the name of the game. When data is shared, better decision result. A customer experience map is helpful here too. Keep in mind, someone is going to have to do all this work while also doing their day job.
- Once you understand where you are and what’s going on and where the pieces fit and you’ve looked at workflows and budgets, then you need to look at your business model and strategy. Your tools should support the business strategy. It’s also key that you ensure employees are making the technology work for them, not for the technology.
- Now you can develop an effective digital tool and technology roadmap that truly fits the needs of the business.
Too many apps means confusion. You risk knowledge, data and information loss across too many digital tools. This also risks loss of Intellectual Property that a competitor could end up getting hold of. It also risks a data breach that results in government fines and litigation.
The digital business world is full of many excellent apps. It’s also incredibly competitive and they know how to make it tempting to sign up. But it’s key to remember that while an app may solve a problem today, it may not be viable in the long term and it may be very hard to get others in the company on-board when they’re already using multiple other tools. This then leads to change management issues and frustrated employees. Then, later, when you want to bring things together or create a “single source of truth” with your data, it may be very costly in terms of time and money, to make that happen. Many digital tools offer connectivity with other tools, but they don’t want to lose your business, so exporting the data into new systems can be very hard or even impossible.
So. Time to get sorted?