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Does Your Technology Need Help?
We all know organizations that were doing just fine before the most recent recession. All right, maybe they weren't growing at the pace of some of their competitors, but they seemed to be doing ok. The recession caused a number of marginal distributors to vanish and some relatively strong ones to weaken. Now that we are seeing evidence of an economic recovery, what is needed for the recovery to continue and business to flourish in the new economy? One of the opportunities most businesses have is to take a refreshed look at the technology they utilize in all aspects of their business.
It is almost impossible to find a business today that doesn't rely on technology for a majority of its processes. What is equally typical is finding companies that are either utilizing only a minimal amount of the functionality in their business technology or actually have ineffective technology.
Here are some questions that should be asked that will uncover whether help is needed with the technology part of the business:
- Is your technology working for you or are you working for the technology?
- Is there a hardware replacement plan or do you replace things when they break?
- How well integrated is all of your software?
- When did you last uncover new functionality in your technology?
Even if you don't ask any of these questions, there are observations that you can make that will give you a good indication as to whether technology is being leveraged to its fullest.
Observation 1 - Mounds of reports on the corner of desks
Observation 2 - Window envelopes for snail mailing of invoices and payables checks
Observation 3 - There is an employee with the title or nickname of "Report Guru"
Observation 4 - Outside sales people call in to find out about the status of customer orders
Observation 5 - When you hear people talking about being "in the cloud" they are talking about their last airplane trip
These are all clear signs that help is needed. The Distributor Board specializes in helping distributors better leverage their existing technology. We also have a proven methodology that will guide distributors through the challenge of evaluating and selecting new business technology.
A quick in house assessment will not take a deep dive into the many potential technology issues that might be faced, but it will get some answers to important question. Here are some technology assessment questions that you or a trusted advisor can review.
- Is the software running on servers at your client's location, a data center, or "in the cloud"?
- What are the install dates for each of the servers? These machines are required to run 24/7/365 and have a life expectancy of between 4-7 years. Is there a replacement plan?
- Staying focused on the core business system (sometimes referred to as ERP or Accounting software), find out if the most current release of the software is being utilized. It is best to stay relatively current with this software. A bit of research may be involved to determine if the software is current or 5 versions behind. A contact to whomever they bought their system from should be made to find out what has improved since the last time it was upgraded. There may be some enhancements that will provide a very strong ROI.
- Is there a support and maintenance agreement with either the software developer (ex. Microsoft) or the people that they bought the system from (VAR-Value Added Reseller). This is often dropped if the software is a bit older, but is one of the wisest investments a company can make.
- When was the last time the Internet service was reviewed (audited), which most likely is the same as their phone service. If it has been more than two years, then it is very probable that an upgrade to faster service for less money than is being spent today is available.
- Get a total count of the software programs that are owned. Often times there is software that is owned, but not being used or there is software being used by one person for one specific task that could actually be done with software that is more widely used. This switch could save money if maintenance is being paid on the single software program.
Beyond these assessment questions, most others would get a bit more technical and might be difficult to answer. If you have any technology questions, please feel free to contact David Panitch at (847) 868-2004 or David@TheDistributorBoard.com.