Some people do their planning naturally, it's part of their personality. It's in their nature. Some people are reluctant planners. Most are somewhere in between. In our experience from observing client business operations, the recurring reality falls into a troubling quagmire – the belief that whatever level of success a business has achieved shows that "whatever" they are doing must be good and therefore that this must be fine. After all, if they are successful so far, then all must be good, right? Just keep doing what we're doing and things will continue to fall into place.
This is not meant to be cruel but to illustrate that we as business owners, stakeholders, entrepreneurs, managers, and consultants need vigilence and diligence when analyzing how we are going to achieve our next level of success. We must assume that no matter how well we have achieved our current goals, that there is always a next step for improving, achieving, for optimizing.
How does this conversation fit into a technology and digital business context? There are few business realms left in the land where digital planning does not figure prominently into any business model. Increasingly, competition comes from areas, offerings and disciplines you never knew existed or countries you never considered as offering a solution your business could use – or lose business to.
And yet, the impact of technology could have on operations, strategy, analysis, marketing, cash management, and sales, to name just a few, is often approached peacemeal. Innocently, of course because this is such a fast moving area.
How could your ...
While the offering of systems has exploded over the past few years – a testament to the market's response to a growing appetite for systems that will help run their business operations. The challenge, however is using tools wisely. The easiest analogy is the impact that Adobe Photoshop and similar earlier tools such as Quark, PageMaker, FrameMaker and others had on the concept of being a designer and illustrator. This brought the power of illustration and creativity to not just a new level, but a different way of even thinking about it. The very idea of designing or doing layout now started with turning on your computer. It was no longer a physical exercise one generally needed to be schooled on. It was a process that anyone could do.
And yet design software never actually made a designer out of anyone. Designers and Illustrators were still created by being either trained or very well practised.
Similarly, just buying or subscribing to various online SaaS tools, be they financial, layout, analytical, marketing and so on, while they are getting better all the time does not inherently make one a professional. 20 years on Photoshop is no closer to making someone a designer than it was in the beginning. Nor should it.
While it may sound redundant, this level of planning requires that you analyze your own business workflow at a granular level. This is probably the area of biggest failure at all levels of business scale and evolution. Managers and owners assume that they know their areas of delivery, resource requirements, staff requirements and dependencies simply because they've been doing it for months and years.
Do the math.
A Workflow Process Analysis reveals how your business actually runs – or should run – down to every financial calculation, shipping label, payment processed, and staff step. This process alone provides tremendous insight and value into not only what you do, but why you do it, and we strongly recommend evolving businesses go through this process if, for no other reason than we have seen what happen when they don't.
Assumptions cost money.
Engaging in any level of system, marketing, platform and operational change is an investment in and of itself. One of the most important and potentially expensive moves a business can make. And yet time and time again, we find businesses that risk such investments on assumptions and most unfortunately, fail as a result.
When embarking on expansion moves, be sure you take nothing for granted. Examine everything. Your warehousing, your accounting process, your product and inventory data entry and stocking process, your data integration, your marketing practices, your branding status. Leave nothing to assumption – and if this is all overwhemlming, bring in help.
In the end, whether you are a small business, a startup or enterprise; you are already in competition with a businesses somewhere in the world that does what you do. And they are doing this.