The year 1989 was a watershed year. In 1989:
• The first of 24 satellites of the GPS system is placed into orbit
• Nintendo began selling the GameBoy
• The 486 series of microprocessor was introduced by Intel
• Microsoft first introduced Microsoft Office
The WWW was invented
I graduated from college in 1989 and recall what one of my marketing professors said to me; “computers will change the world.” And in just 30 short years, computers and the invention of the WWW has fundamentally changed everything we know about society and how we communicate with it. Right now, I am sitting at a softball field, my iPad functioning as a hotspot, working on my laptop that has nearly a terabyte of storage space. As I look around, many other parents are working, playing Candy Crush on their digital devices or live streaming the practice to friends and family. Times have certainly changed.
Or have they…
If you look at technology from a business perspective, the challenges faced in 1989 are almost identical to those that businesses face now. Even with all of the advances of technology, managers and leadership still struggle with truly understanding simple things like inventory shortages, lost orders, which marketing campaigns have contributed to sales, P&L reports, missed shipments, and general lack of control. One of our clients used to have nine spreadsheets they needed to update just to manage a shipment. Yes, you read that right; nine spreadsheets.
Traditionally, technologists have “thrown technology” at the problem. And by throwing technology at the problem, I mean one of two things. Either a behemoth consisting of one software vendor or a point to point integration of what used to be called “best in class”. The behemoth always took too long to implement, sometimes cost thousands of dollars, and, in general, wasn’t what the business wanted – or needed. Many times, it would languish, never to be really used to its best potential.
Best in class… (I always used to love that term). It’s the “good on paper” solution. Business would get the best CRM, the best inventory system, the best marketing platform, the best accounting software. Then, consultants would tightly integrate each field, each workflow, each process. Anytime, the business wanted to change even a minute process, they needed to re-integrate each field, each workflow, each process. And, each of these best in class solutions would update their software or platform at different times. You’ve guessed it; anytime a change was made, each field, each workflow, each process had to be re-integrated.
I won’t get into Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA’s) that was developed to help with those pesky point-to-point integrations – even though I thought it was pretty cool back in the day. And I won’t even go down the ASP path – although that’s a blast from the past too.
So frustrating. No wonder why businesses didn’t really trust the technologists. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard from VP’s of finance or Operations that “software vendors are only out for themselves”. And yes, a VP of Operations told me that at a trade show when we were talking about Business Process Management software.
I suppose the question you’re asking yourself now is “why is she taking me on a trip down memory lane.” I am a firm believer in the only way to move forward is to understand your past.
So, what is the way forward? Well, there is not one software vendor out there that can truly fill every desire of the business. And to be quite candid, everything is super easy to integrate these days. What’s left… we believe that in order to truly help businesses transform, our job is to first understand every businesses processes first. Every business and every business process? Yes. Because contrary to popular belief, every company – and how they handle activities – is just a little bit different.
It’s one of the biggest reasons why we spend critical time getting to know the people and the business first. Understanding how the company is run. What types of processes are “must-haves” and which ones can be safely retired. By understanding HOW the business runs – and how it WANTS to run, chances are we can help cut some of the fat and make good technology recommendations so that the company can truly digitally transform.
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