There comes a time in the life of every small-to-medium business owner or manager when you are going to look at the spreadsheets, the Word documents, the masses of email, the accounting program, the piles of paper pending filing, the sticky notes on the walls, the screens and the junior’s forehead and you are going to wonder, “How with all these systems in place, did we mess up?”
When the dust settles and your blood pressure drops, you are going to look for a solution. Initially, you will look for a classic quick-fix solution which will probably involve a few good swift kicks, a minor revision of existing business rules and an office tidy-up. Slowly but inevitably this will lead you to the second big question: “How with all these improved systems in place, did we mess up again?”
This question is a lot more painful than the first, and after a few rounds of ritual reviews and maybe a sacrifice or two, you will come to the First Epiphany of Growth: “We need to REALLY change!” This time the pain is so bad that money will be offered at the Altar of Effectiveness and you will buy some standard software, something like a new suite of Microsoft’s Office and maybe a new computer. This will help a bit, and for a while you will be able to relax, but inevitably…
This time you decide you are really going to bite the bullet. The question is, which bullet? CRM or ERP, or maybe a nice little modular EMS? Oran “I-don’t-quite-know-how-to-describe-it-but-it’s-what-we-do” system? Off the rack or made to measure?
You go window-shopping. You talk to your peers and trusted advisors, and maybe a few experts. You quickly learn that they are all talking different languages and you don’t understand any of them. You look at a few price tags and think that maybe sticky notes weren’t so bad after all. But the problem doesn’t go away.
So now you need to start framing up a few parameters to base a decision on: how much can you really afford to spend (that narrowed the field by half!), what do you really want it to do, how much of that is negotiable and what bits are deal-breakers? Maybe you decide you really need some help with this, but for that you are going to have to wait until the next issue…
*Next month: Off-the-rack vs tailored solutions.