Customer journeyMany companies are failing to take advantage of the software solutions they have deployed within their organisations and its costing them big money. Inefficient use of technology within an organisation means not leveraging the full functionality of their IT solutions, it’s like buying a forklift to move stock in a factory and then not putting anything on the top shelf in the warehouse.

If you’re a small to medium business owner don’t just assume that technology is being exploited by your employees you need to understand where technology fits into your organisation and how effectively it’s being used. Otherwise you could be wasting time and money maintaining an inefficient solution. Remember technology is important, but not for technologies sake, once upon a time the most technology a business had was a calculator and a typewriter, so they needed good processes and employees that understood the business to do business. With all the services on offer today whether that be in the cloud or on premise as a business owner you need to work out what is right for you.

So the real question here is how as a small business owner, you can determine if the software solutions and environment you are using meets your needs and you are getting the maximum value out of it. The trick is not to start with the IT solution itself but determine what your company does and how technology fits into the puzzle. Your company’s processes and infrastructure requirements should be driving the use of technology not the other way around.

So how do you do this?

The best place to start is to map the “Customer Journey” through your organisation. This gives you a great basis for how your organisation operates, what are the customer touch points and how do you actually do what you do. The cool part about this exercise is that it works for any business with a product or service.

So what do we mean by “Customer Journey”? Basically it’s a process view of how you generate sales, process the orders, generate your product or service and then deliver it back to the customer in a way that meets, or even exceeds their expectations. This process can be as simple as mapping it out on a white board and then drilling down into each area of the business to investigate what happens at each defined step. The aim of this exercise isn’t to drill down to absolute resolution, but enough so you can communicate a meaningful understanding to someone who knows nothing about your business on how it operates.

Then around the outside of that process include all of the supporting parts of the business like HR, Admin, Finance, Health, Safety and Environment management. This helps to paint a picture of just how the business operates. It’s only once you understand how the business operates that you can now look at the software solutions you have deployed within the company and where they fit, whether that’s and ERP solution, Finance package, HR system, Intranet etc.

From here you can now determine who the users of each solution are and if it’s meeting their requirements. You can also start to look at where all of the supporting documentation lives and if it is easy to find.

The real goal is to look at each solution individually and ask, are we getting the maximum return out of this investment? are we using the solution to its full functionality? if not why not? and where is it hosted and why? It’s amazing the number of times you do these exercises with companies and discover how employees are having to work around the technology to get their job done because its either not easy/intuitive or they just forgot how to use the system after they had training or just don’t care.

The crazy part is that this exercise isn’t hard to do it just takes some time. I was always taught that there were two ways to increase your profits 1. Increase sales and 2. Reduce costs. As markets become more competitive, increasing sales comes at a cost, yet looking at how efficiently you’re using the technology in your business has huge potential to increase processing efficiency and hence reduce overall running costs. So if you have looked at ways to improve what you do and how you do it, don’t just look at the obvious things but take some time to investigate how technology is being used and make it work for you.