• Planning Your Digital Business Growth and Expansion Clearly and Logically is More Critical than Ever

Whether the end requirement is simple or complex, there is no question that solid technology and system planning is crucial

20 March, 2016

Regardless of the business guru, model, or philosophy you subscribe to; or the area of greatest need or focus, there is only one central tenet to successful business : planning.

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.

Impact on efficiency and profit

SWOT Margin CalculationsAnd 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 ...

  • ... billing data, invoices and subsequent payments be tied to your accounting/erp? This could save hours of data re-entry and provide you with valuable to-the-minute cash flow information you may be waiting days or weeks for currently.
  • ... inventory and point of sale products be tied to your warehouse, or stores/warehouses (plural)? This would give you enormous scale by offering online anything your company has, anywhere. You're able to play a much much bigger game now without worrying about a single staffer's ability to perform data entry duplicating warehouse receiving with online product updating. And what if your stores/warehouses (plural) were all in on it? Wait a minute, now anything, anywhere, store, warehouse, or all of the above is in on it. This is big. You are big.
  • ... customers, clients, suppliers or partners actually participate in speeding up your own data flow and workflow? Do you have compliance documents, purchase orders, legal forms, payments and signatures you process regularly? What if this happened automatically? This would make your partners part of your workflow – indeed it would make them part of your workforce, actually performing your work for you, and faster (and cheaper, read: free) than you could do it.
  • ... key performance indicators be real time? How long does it take you to see and analyze business performance? Your incoming prospects, your incoming cash, your sales calls, your incoming referrals, your time to close a client, your outgoing invoices, your product category profit margin, your lead sales people, your inventory on hand, your website clicks, your marketing views, your rolling year sales – the list goes on. While this information is all available with enough effort, effort, is something only some of us will put in when it becomes cumbersome. Being able to review your primary KPIs partly depends on the individual system you choose for that part of your business, but also depends on the available information that system has available to it. If it gets data in real time – so do you.

Tools : Great Responsibility

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. 

Systematizing : Breaking Down Your Own Workflow

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.

Workflow Process Analysis

The Price of Assumption

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.

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