According to a recent CompTIA survey of 400 U.S. IT firms, 53% said they have more streams of data to manage and analyze and 50% have expanded into new lines of business or business models. On top of that, the survey respondents indicated that the customer engagement model has become more challenging and complicated.
According to Carolyn April, CompTIA’s senior director of industry analysis, “many IT firms are wising up to the fact that best practices and process efficiencies are enormously important to any business, but is especially true for companies transforming an underlying business model” (like moving to a cloud or subscription business model). “How well, or how poorly you run your business has a direct impact on your profit margin,” April explained. “If you’re captaining a leaky ship, it may be the difference between a 10-percent margin and a 25-percent margins for the year.”
Only 20% of survey respondents assessed themselves currently as very efficient.
This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for technology solution providers. The challenge is, how do you implement and get your employees to follow repeatable business processes across the company? Because if you are successful in doing that, your company immediately becomes more effective, efficient, profitable and more scalable.
Most technology organizations have some kind of business software automation, whether it be “frankensteined” disconnected departmental software (separate CRM, Quoting, Help Desk, Project Management) or first generation PSA solutions that are primarily Help Desk/Ticket focused. (Changing to new business software isn’t as bad as you think. Read our blog on the topic here: http://promys.com/whats-really-involved-moving-away-psabusiness-software-hate/).
The problem with either of those legacy approaches, is they’re only effective at automating a portion of the business, hence their inherent lack of inefficiency and scalability.
To further complicate matters, when Managed Services/Cloud/Subscriptions were a ‘new thing’, customers were happy to deal with a specialist, outside of their normal technology equipment and professional services solution provider. But now that Managed Services/Cloud/Subscriptions have become mainstream, customers have gone back to what has always been their preference, “one throat to choke”, where they want one vendor to provide them with Managed Services/Cloud/Subscriptions, Project based solutions and ad-hoc Services/Support.
This customer transition has huge implications on which type of business software is best suited to effectively automate Sales, Managed Services/Cloud/Subscriptions, Project based solutions and ad-hoc Services/Support in the most effective and efficient manner possible.
As detailed in the Promys PSA Buyers Guide, you’ll see that there are three different categories of PSA software; 1) Help Desk/Ticket based PSA software , 2) Project based PSA software and 3) Enterprise PSA software (strong at Help/Desk Ticketing & Project solution delivery).
In order to become part of the 20% of technology solution providers who consider themselves to be very efficient, you need to consistently do five things:
1) Align your business processes with best practices:
Align your business processes with best practices and then map your business processes to your business software functionality. Many technology solution providers find this is their first stumbling block, in that they simply try and automate how they do things now, which allows them to make exactly the same mistakes only faster. In order to optimize operational efficiency you’ll need to start first with your business processes and make sure they’re solidly aligned with industry best practices. Then you’ll have to evaluate how to best map your business processes to the ideal way of using your business software functionality to maximize it’s full capabilities. (For tips on how to incorporate best practices, see the Promys’ 20 Step “Easy Way” Implementation Guide for tips on how to do this).
2) Efficiently hand off and combine information between departments:
A perfect example of the requirement to combine information between departments would be setting up and determining the profitability of Support Agreements or Managed Services/Cloud/Subscription Contracts. You’ll need to track/combine initial set-up services, recurring costs, recurring billing, proactive services, reactive services, one-time equipment/software costs/revenue. Hint, if your business software doesn’t do this for you automatically, if you have to track or combine any of this information manually, it’s not going to be very efficient.
3) Consistently communicate changes that affect multiple departments:
This is where a formal Change Order process becomes critical. These changes should be segmented into “External Change Orders” initiated by the customer (changes to scope or quantities) and “Internal Change Orders” where something got overlooked in the estimate or needs to be added without the need to notify the customer, but that will affect profitability, tracking or delivery of the solution. Once approved the Change Order should automatically add/remove line items from the original order, but flag those changes as Change Order driven changes. This will ensure that anyone reviewing the changes will know who made the change, why and when, instead of wasting their time and resources on an Easter egg hunt to track down answers to those questions.
4) Cycle lessons learned across departments:
”Easily” comparing estimates to actuals, or what should have happened to what actually happened, becomes critical in continually improving the efficiency and effectiveness of any technology solution provider. The sad statistic is that over 70% of wasted efficiency is spent fixing the same problem that has already happened before. The reason those problems are never permanently addressed is because those problems are never actually identified as having happened ‘before’ because the information originated in a different department. Most technology solution providers will tell you, they could gather and compare estimates to actuals, or what should have happened to what actually happened, it’s just very time consuming and manual to do so. Subsequently it happens infrequently, or ‘when something really, really bad happens’. If your business software cannot compare estimates to actuals, or what really happened compared to what should have happened across departments easily, then it will be very hard to engage in continuous improvement and optimize operational efficiency.
5) Combine information from multiple departments for reporting purposes:
The health of any technology solution providers business is not based on the performance of a single department, it’s based on the combined performance of all departments; New customer growth, Project solution on-time on budget delivery, Managed Services/Cloud/Subscription growth, Customer SLA responsiveness and Labor Utilization as examples. In order to run the business effectively, proper executive reporting should show all key metrics combined on a single pane of glass. Many organizations spend a ridiculous amount of time aggregating this management reporting information from multiple data sources or combining multiple departmental reports into a single executive report. Not only is this inefficient, it’s not very effective since the data is often out of date by the time the combined report is finally complete.
Operational Efficiency is possible, but you may benefit from some help
Based on the constraints of some of the legacy approaches, it’s no wonder why so many technology solution providers are struggling to coordinate their different departments, resources and information in an effective and efficient way. But, the good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Check out the Promys PSA Buyers Guide to help determine the best PSA software to make your organization more effective and more efficient. Download the Promys PSA Buyers Guide here.