Since I work with clients ranging in size from small, family-owned businesses to multi-billion dollar corporations, industries ranging from aerospace to building products to value-add distribution and on topics ranging from growth to service level improvement to increasing business performance, I have the opportunity to see countless businesses — and what works and what doesn't work.
It seems like a great time to share what is important as we head into a new year, new quarter or even new day. There is always opportunity to take that critical step towards success.
From a systems standpoint, here a few of the top strategies/areas to consider as a next step in driving business success:
- Leverage what you have - Even though I dedicate a portion of my practice to selecting the "right" system to best meet business objectives, I find that 80% of the time, the current system (almost no matter how bad it seems) can be further leveraged to drive results. There are two situations I can think of where the client was extremely system challenged but we found a few ways to improve upon processes, even in the worst of cases. Start by thinking about what is most important to your business. Then dig into the areas of the system that could support that critical business process. It can be as simple as that.
- Upgrade when it makes sense - As I said earlier, every business can be improved with its current system; however, there is a limit. If you are in a high-growth mode and leveraging a system geared to small business, you'll begin to run into the wall in terms of capabilities. It might be time to upgrade. If you have gone through a merger or acquisition, it is likely you'll need to consider upgrading to have a common platform. If you have a highly customized system to support your business with limited growth potential without continuing down the customization path, it is likely time to consider upgrading. If you want to make a leap forward with your technology and are using an outdated system that has weak support and might be bought up by the next software giant to come along, it might be time to consider an upgrade.
- Select the "right" system to drive business results - I have helped many clients select the best system to meet their business objectives the last several years. It can be a dog-eat-dog world with radically different estimates and smooth-talking salespeople; however, there are also great suppliers selling highly functional and flexible systems to bring your business to the next level of performance. The bottom line is that it boils down to how well the software options support your critical business factors (which should be a short list; not 100 items) and how well the software suppliers will partner with you for success. Implementation will cost more than software and it will cost more than you expect to do it well, yet it will deliver substantial results after things smooth out.
- CRM - In today's Amazon-impacted marketplace, service is of critical importance. My clients are expected to deliver faster, provide more options, suggest value-additions, be available 24/7 — and the list goes on. CRM software can help you keep track of your relationships, potential business and provide extra value to your customers.
- Warehouse automation - As e-commerce continues to grow in importance around the globe, many manufacturers and distributors must rise to the occasion. It isn't as easy as using the same processes that work effectively for your regular business. E-commerce drives significant differences to warehouse operations if you want to be able to provide the level of service consumers have become accustomed to at the price they are willing to pay. These changes are driving significant investments in different equipment and technology for those companies with heavy e-commerce business. Bring in experts. Do your research. It will make or break success.
- SIOP functionality - More and more of my clients are further leveraging their planning, capacity planning, demand planning/forecasting, MPS/MRP and advanced planning systems to better align demand and supply for improved service levels, reduced lead times, improved margins, accelerated cash flow and to support growth.
Think about which of these might benefit your business. Leveraging systems is one way to grow without adding overhead and it will improve your business performance by utilizing an already-existing asset in most cases. Give it a try. Contact me for support with these strategies and/or to let me know how it goes. Sharing success stories and even failures can propel you to success.
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