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Beyond the Basics: Next Level Systems and Software for Streamlined Operations

Many of my clients come to me with frustrations about their systems and software.

They want better numbers and more accurate tracking.

I’m getting these reports and numbers, but they don’t seem right.

They want their systems to talk to each other.

We sell wholesale through our account reps and retail through our website – but we draw our inventory from the same warehouse. Unless the systems talk to each other, it’s too easy to sell the same items multiple times.

They want additional automation or better processes.

We’re currently having to enter the same information into multiple systems. Not only is this inefficient in terms of process, but it also leads to inaccurate reporting when entries are missed.

They tried to set something up themselves and it’s getting too complex or complicated to keep running.

We’re running a few different apps along with some spreadsheets. We’ve got it all hooked together with zapier, but every time we change it or add something new, something else breaks down. It feels a bit like playing whack-a-mole – you fix one issue and 3 more crop up.

These types of problems are signals that your business is ready for next level systems.

Most businesses start out with one or a few single-purpose programs that don’t talk to each other.

They might run quickbooks for bookkeeping. Or salesforce for a CRM. Or Shopify for ecommerce program. Or all three.

Or they have one program that they push to its limits by supplementing missing functionality with a collection of spreadsheets and manual processes.

Eventually, the business grows to a point where the system begins to break down and cause problems.

  • Too many transactions and too much data due to sales growth leads to “we can’t keep up with the manual systems anymore.”
  • Additional complexity introduced with new products or services or sales channels results in “we opened an online store, now inventory control is a mess.”
  • Disarray from having the key person who understands all the manual processes and spreadsheets leaves – and now “no one knows how to do this!”

The wish of most of these business leaders is to centre things around one system. They might ask: “Can’t we run everything through shopify?”

In many cases, the software vendors do offer add-on programs that look like they would bridge the gap. Unfortunately, because these are outside of the vendor’s primary focus, they often don’t work well or lack needed functionality.

The solution is to implement a next level system with a centralized database “hub” – a single source of accurate information.

Big corporations call these ERP Systems: Enterprise Resource Planning.

For smaller businesses, there are other options (we like Zoho.)

Instead of centering your system on one specific piece of software, you use a central database hub.

Each piece of software in your system uses and updates the central database – creating a common source of “truth.”

So, for example, when your sales rep sells the last 50 cases of widgets, the online store knows that inventory is zero and won’t accept new orders. Or better yet, the system knows what they bought in the past and makes a recommendation for something else.

Beyond solving these problems, these systems also make it possible to create management reporting dashboards that provide up-to-date information for decision-making purposes.

Better data -> better decisions -> better business.

Successful Implementation Begins with Business Processes

The most common mistake in these types of projects is diving in without developing the overall architecture first.

Successfully implementing a centralized system requires:

  • Looking at your business as a whole and seeing where different departments, processes, and functions meet.
  • Mapping out the flow of information, data, and reporting.
  • Considering the user journeys to ensure that the systems meet the needs of the people using them.
  • Developing an implementation plan that reduces disruption.
  • Connecting various pieces of software to the central hub.
  • Leading change management and training staff to use the new systems.

In our consulting work, we follow the PPT triangle – beginning with processes and people – and ending with tools/technology.

This way we ensure that the systems we are implementing are the right fit for the business.

If you’d like to take your business systems to the next level, your first step is a complimentary systems consultation.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jean-Eric Plamondon

Founder and Systems Strategist at Growth Strategies.

Serial entrepreneur with direct experience launching, growing, & selling a number of businesses including scaling a scrap metal business from $0 to $5 Million in 6 months.

Certified Management Consultant and Value Builder Advisor. Author of the Boring Business Manifesto.

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