To follow the ideas I presented in my January blog post, Getting Ready for the Rebound, we’re all looking to do more with less in 2010. That’s easy to say, but executing the concept in your day-to-day-operations can be a challenge. Here are nine questions you need to consider as you strive to make your business more efficient.
“Cost-cutting” is the obvious first step. And, in some respects is the easiest path. But that could also start you on a downward spiral that will force you to continue to shrink your business to the point where it becomes non-viable.
Growth-minded companies need to find effective ways to accelerate their businesses. Leaders and top managers need to assess their resources and ask themselves, “How much better could we be using the resources we have today?” And, “What tools do I need to get the job done better and faster?” Key areas to look at are improved efficiency and process automation -- two paths to long-term gains in productivity and improved bottom-line operating income.
Nine Questions to Help You RetoolThat’s why IT service organizations can benefit from the same concept of “retooling” used by manufacturing companies for their factories. For IT service providers, retooling means first taking a hard look at the processes you have in place for selling, implementing, delivering and billing your IT services and products. Then, isolate and correct any productivity leaks or gaps. Unless you consider your “whole” business (products and services), you’ll likely miss critical areas that could be draining your cash flow and the productivity of your staff.
Here are nine areas you should consider:
- How is your sales pipeline being nurtured? Do you have a reliable system for tracking your prospects right through the final sale?
- How much effort does it take your team to protect customer retention through regular, ongoing communication with current clients?
- How many hours – or days – does it take to gather the information and work details you need to properly bill your clients?
- How much of your staff’s work goes unbilled because it was never tracked or captured anywhere?
- Do you have automated systems in place to track and manage your vendor, distributor, customer and employee communications?
- How many steps are involved in onboarding a new inventory item, assigning it to a client, adding the cost to a project and billing the item?
- Can you easily drill into the costs associated with selling and delivering your services, versus selling and supporting your IT products?
- How much time is wasted entering duplicate data and information into disparate point-solutions – like your CRM and billing system?
- How many extra steps do your staff have to take to make sure that an alert from an RMM tool is translated into an actionable service ticket?
Changing TimesUntil recently, the largest and most sophisticated service providers were the only ones that could afford sophisticated IT service automation and business management tools.
Large companies routinely spent six figures to buy an ERP system and invested a year or more of system development and integration to fit it to their business. However, most independents and smaller shops had to manage their businesses with a variety of stand-alone spreadsheets and home-grown applications, which can sap precious internal resources to build and maintain – resources that should be directed on building and servicing your client-base.
As you know, even the smallest IT businesses have an enormous amount of complexity to manage – multiple clients, contract SLA’s, business models, vendor programs and systems. And, while it may seem okay to manage your business that way, you might be surprised at how inefficient some of these processes can be.
Make 2010 the year you take control of your company and get serious about efficiency. Take time to find a purpose-built IT business management platform that you can afford and meet your needs. Make sure that it is fully integrated and works seamlessly with the other tools you use. Find a one-stop solution that not only fits your business size, but comes with a team of professionals who are available to help -- and a community of peers who have already faced some of these same challenges.
In an economic climate such as this, there is no better time to make the change, and everything to gain.
Bob Godgart is CEO of Autotask Corp. Monthly guest blogs such as this one are part of MSPmentor's annual platinum sponsor program. Read all of Bob's guest blog entries here.