Comparing Apples with Apples

Out the mouth of our Chief Projects Officer: Kyle Saffy

Two ends of the continuum, free or low cost business tools versus integrated scalable licensed business software. At one end, you have very well priced solutions that will suffice for a small start-up business but at the other end you have established growing businesses that require reliable scalable solutions.

The entry level end offers limited online support through an email or a knowledge base, everything is self-serve and asynchronous. On the high end, the software is powerful and advanced. More importantly, one buys far more than just software; integrated business solutions normally include professional services and various qualified support staff.

What prompted this article was a prospective client who wanted to negotiate licensing fees based on the cost of their existing disconnected system. This obviously got me thinking and the very first thing we had to do was compare apples with apples.

There are a multitude of applications on the market which are very much low cost or even free, but they have their limitations when it comes to growing businesses. After evaluating the various systems that the prospective client was using, I posed a simple question: “How does this all fit together and how easy is it for you to draw consolidated reporting for your clients?”

I was faced with blank stares and then taken through lengthy explanations of how one report is downloaded, reformatted, copied and pasted from here to get to there and voila! Excel jambalaya!

In all seriousness though, if there is ever a point where different reports need to be extracted from a multitude of systems that don’t speak to each other, you have to have a long hard look at what your business needs are and reporting requirements are.

The ‘saving’ is certainly not worth the time spent trying to get reports to fit together rather than staff focusing on what they were originally hired to do.

The key reasons for implementing an integrated business solution is to improve business performance, simplify reporting and to make employees’ jobs easier. As an extreme example of a seamless end-to-end process, consider a car manufacturing plant. It is efficient, mostly automated and well planned.

The end product is within a fraction of being perfect and requires very little human intervention. When you consider the business software you are now using, my advice is “don’t settle for anything less”; keep the process simple but integrated.

There may be systems on the market claiming to be the easiest way to track your timesheets or to schedule your resources but the question you should ask yourself – how is this all going to come together at the end of the day?

The old saying ‘penny wise pound foolish’ is so true, don’t be fooled by thinking that you’ll be saving by trying to piece together various apps but it’s actually costing much more when you consider senior resources spending many hours each month combining reports that should take seconds to run. Business solutions that are fit for purpose are in that position for a reason, they have been tried and tested and are robust in their specific task. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and look at the bigger picture and consider what you are getting for your money before making a decision that could lead to unhappy staff and risky business. Know your Apples!