Now Is the Time for Digital Transformation
Today’s business environment seems calamitous. Many previously well-established norms and assumptions are no longer valid, and every organization must choose to do nothing or to adapt. Well, it is really not a choice when it’s a matter of survival, is it?
Calamity Brings Opportunity
We see all around us how businesses are adapting after the first shocks of the pandemic. Everybody is finding new ways to capture previously stable revenues or capture new revenues that were completely out of their reach just a few months ago.
This time of calamity should be used not only for tactical re-alignment but also for big strategic changes. Every organization has a wish list of those, always waiting for an opportune moment. Rejoice, it is now! It sounds counterintuitive, but during crazy times, organizational resistance to change is at its minimum. I will talk about the one thing I know quite a bit about – Information Technology!
Is it Enough to Switch to the Cloud?
For some organizations we work with, the pandemic was the perfect time to do that long-awaited switch to the cloud. Most of them do not need an office space anymore, so the only place they can put their applications now is in the cloud. And nobody complained! Quite the opposite. Moving to the cloud is a move for survival. Great! However, it is only a tactical move. Why stop with moving to the cloud? This is the time to build your IT strategy, yes, the one you never had.
True Digital Transformation
This is the time to execute on your Digital Transformation. IT strategy is not having “stuff” in the cloud. For Digital Transformation (whatever it means in your head) this is just a step in the right direction. Use this time to transform your entire organization into a lean operation – save money, increase productivity, enable effective collaboration, and use your data to produce meaningful and actionable information. Here is a list of potential areas of change, where we know technology can make a significant impact:
Ensure you have proper End-user support
Ensure that your team can be extremely productive regardless which part of the world or which time zone they work in. We live in 24x7 world now and your team and your team, customers and partners need 24x7 support. Remotely, of course!
Reduce office space and cost associated with supporting it
Even after we can go back to our offices freely, I don’t believe that office space will be as utilized as before. Many years ago, when WordPress announced that they were closing all their offices and the entire company was going virtual, I thought that they were crazy. Now I see that they were simply ahead of their times. Personally, I don’t miss the morning commute and I am much more comfortable with stretching my workday into a 16-hour ordeal, interrupted with cooking, reading, exercise, and hanging out with my kids.
Reduce your cost by minimizing or getting rid of your office space, printers, scanners, servers, network equipment, and support cost associated with them. In line with this, it is time to switch to digital signatures to avoid printing, signing, and scanning (aka Don’t be a dinosaur!).
Reduce busy work on important tasks
There were times when we would gather in the office once a month for a 24-48-hour long session of generating monthly invoices. We can’t do that anymore and I don’t believe that anyone wants to do it anymore. Why not find a way to reduce invoicing time, collections time, payment processing time, financial reporting, analysis, and forecasting? There are many tools you can use to streamline each of these processes. For example, we shifted all our payables to Bill.com. Now, it takes maybe 30 minutes per week to pay all the bills, compared to six hours per week previously.
Improve collaboration and coordination
Another thing that needs to disappear from modern organization is collaboration by sending files as attachments in an email or via chat. Any data collaboration tools will do – Drobox, Google Docs, One Drive, SharePoint, Box, or whatever works for your organization.
Also, spreadsheets can’t serve as task management or project management tools anymore. There are many free or cheap software tools that will make this transition easy.
Finally, we strongly suggest implementing workflow engines to enable effective process management. Both Zapier and Microsoft’s Power Automate are good tools, easy to use and worth the cost. This application space is still in its infancy, in my humble opinion, and we shall see a huge improvement in capabilities over the next few years. Be an early adapter; it can pay off significantly.
Use data to create meaningful and actionable information
This is a big one, and I’ll start with spreadsheets (Excel or Google Sheets or Lotus 1-2-3 😊). It is time to take them out of your business operations. Because they are so easy to use, they became the major reporting data exchange, and data analysis tools for the majority of small- and medium-sized businesses in the US. But aren’t you tired of the copy, paste, Save As, email, copy, paste, Save As, email routine? There is a slew of easily affordable reporting and data analysis tools, all cloud-based, that make spreadsheets feel like last-century’s technology. Fathom (www.fathomhq.com) is a great tool to consider. Simple and affordable, it shifted our financial intelligence and performance reporting into a sophisticated discipline.
For overall business (Fathom is for financial data only) performance analysis, we now use Tableau. Tools of today will natively connect to most major business applications and almost any database you can imagine, completely removing the need for integration or manual data exports. From one application, you can have access to any piece of data in your organization and slice it and dice it any way you want. Real time! And prices are SMB friendly. Need I say more?
Outsourcing Saves Money
One last piece of advice is that having a solid technology foundation will enable you to outsource all non-essential aspects of your operations. It can rapidly reduce the cost of operation and allow you a lot more time to focus on your core business mission. Of course, if you are planning to outsource your IT, please call ECHO first. After almost 20 years in business, we’ve got this covered!
Each of these can be a topic on its own so please do not hesitate to ask if you want do dwell deeper into any of them.
ECHO is Doing It and So Can You
Here at ECHO, over the past six months, we streamlined our entire finance, data analysis, lead generation and forecasting operation. We got rid of all Excel spreadsheets and all reports and data analysis is available to everyone in the organization in real time, while allowing easy collaboration.
Here are some meaningful outcomes:
– Business review meetings were cut from three 90-minutes sessions per month into one monthly 45-minute session for each division.
– Our monthly financial forecast’s margin of error is less than one percent. This and many other digital transformation changes we did recently are the subject of a much larger story that I hope to write soon.
– Our Operating Expenses were reduced by 25% over the past eight months.
Am I bragging – yes, but if we could do it, so can you! The good news for you is that you don’t have to do it alone. ECHO has extensive experience in all things IT. We can enable you to create the digital transformation seamlessly at a reasonable cost.
Feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about how to make the digital magic happen in your organization. We’re here to help.