What is the biggest single ambition for an SME? For the vast majority of companies, it is growth. So, why do so many SMEs put obstacles in the way of achieving this? You would think that they would want to increase their chances by being able to introduce new products or services as quickly and easily as possible. In a way they are actively holding themselves back.
There is a remedy
SMEs today have demands and pressures like never before. However, there is a solution which can make a huge difference: modern ERP systems and expert hand-held consultation, implementation and support.
Why is this such a game changer? It offers an integrated and easy to use system which delivers a combination of functionality, information and control for organisations who need to mix service, trade and project.
You may think you already have these under control. However, modern ERP offers a step change in ease of use and speed that will give a company a real competitive advantage.
Why do I need to change?
We have all heard, or even used, the “disruption”, “cost” and “better the devil you know” arguments to avoid change. They roll off the tongue very easily. However, at the same time, we have all seen businesses that have been forced, under pressure, to undertake a software implementation of new systems when they were not ready for it – they have not budgeted, prepared or planned - and things can often go wrong.
The place you do not want to be is far behind your competition because you failed to future-proof yourself. You failed to keep up. Alternatively, it might be something else that drives you - a change to industry regulations or even a brand new competitor that disrupts your industry.
Technology is changing rapidly
In simple terms, you know you have to change something at some point in the future but you decided to delay too many times. Ultimately, with a significant long-term cost.
The evolution of new technology can be head-spinning. Typically, the replacement cycle for ERP is ten years. But rapid advances in modern system effectiveness, easier and deeper integration, and more immediate access to data mean that the cycle is reducing.
Obstacles to change?
What is the shortest, most obstacle-free way for a business to achieve its growth goal and match its ambition? How can you do this without excessive cost and disruption to the business? First steps - work through these to understand your starting point:
Make the best of what your business already has – initially in terms of people and processes. Who or what is working best for you at present? What skill-sets do you have and what are you lacking?
Do you then recruit, invest in training, or outsource to specialists?
Calculate how much time is spent on routine, mundane administration tasks that could be easily automated? Are your processes actually adding value?
How much work is being duplicated? How much work is being redone?
Do you have the right balance between short-term fixes and long-term system improvement?
How much work is stuck in outdated systems? How much work is done in stand-alone spreadsheets? How much is in personal databases?
If the answer these questions (especially to question 6) is ‘too much’, then as a responsible business you should investigate software solutions to help. There are solutions specifically aimed at SMEs that will automate tasks across the whole business, develop inter-departmental links, and increase efficiency and effectiveness.
Once you understand the gap between the growth goal and where you are presently, the next stage is to plot the steps to bridge the gap.
The most successful operations spend more time and energy on the important things: primarily, growing their business. What makes such a business stand out is that they do not stand still and keep adapting. All truly modern and successful operations have demonstrated a willingness to update themselves and take calculated risks.
Partner with experts
So, what do you do when you’ve identified that you need to update? What is the best way to implement something which will be complicated?
What would you do at home? Even the best at DIY will recognise the need to refer to experts. Certainly, for the important things in your life you would not put your trust in poor advice or broken tools. You would disregard anybody who was not able to demonstrate a proven track record for excellence, who failed to fully understand your needs, or was uncertified. Once you’re satisfied that they can do the job and they’re in your price range, you look to build a long-term relationship with them. Think of the value of having an expert plumber always on hand, who you know and trust.
Apply the same approach in business, with a partner company that understands your requirements, and is an established provider of Business and ERP software to SMEs. They should also supply reputable systems, such as Odoo and offer proactive IT support services.
What specialist skills should I also look for?
The supplier should have specialist skills for your industry –
As your business grows and develops you need to ensure that your partner can grow and develop in tandem. If not, you will simply have to start looking for a replacement which will mean that you have been wasting time and money by selecting poorly.
Your partner needs a proven track record, and a strong financial position with continued profitability. They must have extensive experience of projects and implementations for SMEs across many sectors (Distribution, Manufacturing and Services) for credibility, and have other clients that you can ask to speak to - a well-established client-base, to demonstrate their successes.
They need to offer a broad range of services: a complete IT infrastructure, perhaps to include off-site hosting, server installation, network and hardware support. Best that they are aligned with a global provider of software and services.
The ideal partner will tell you good news and bad, understand your needs, and speak the language of your business. They can clearly demonstrate expertise, and the specialist skills to fill the gaps in your business, offering an expansive service to give you back the time and focus to concentrate on driving your business.
Clear and Precise System Improvements
Progressive and supported software solutions are future proofed since the maintenance revenue paid by existing users goes into the development fund to keep up to date.
There is often a suggestion that you can solve your business problems with small upgrades at a relatively modest cost. Such incremental upgrade are ultimately poor value for money if they only help for a short time, just sticking plasters over more complicated problems.
Be decisive in making these improvements. Do not view the necessity or pressure to change with caution or too nervously. Remember, you have the chance to make essential improvements on your own terms and completely within your control. Learn what works, what doesn’t, and go from there. Select partners who match your ethos and share your aspirations. It is the true spirit of innovation, that may involve taking a calculated risk, but who knows where it could take your business?