How to beat the system

Rhonda Ridge, MD of Ab Initio Software, says if you haven’t reviewed your business management system for a few years, the dawn of a fresh new decade might be just the time to do it.

Generally, all IT hardware has built-in obsolescence and, over time, reaches the point where our expectations exceed the performance of the machine; if the machine itself does not give up the ghost first of course. Where once we were content to sit and wait ten minutes for a file to download, irritation now quickly sets in if the data is not with us within seconds.

While we may be ready to upgrade hardware, how often do we review the systems – CRM, project management, sales and accounts packages – that the hardware supports? When we have become comfortable with a management system over many years, a reluctance to review that system is understandable.

Just as hardware becomes obsolete, so too does software. A good CRM system should evolve rather than become obsolete overnight. And for that reason alone, we may not have realised just how clunky our IT tools might have become.

So how do we tell? Here is a brief checklist that you can use to see if you should change your company’s management systems.

If you use several programmes to run the business. If you don’t run your installation business using a single system that can manage every stage – from lead gen through sales, contracts, surveying, installation, snagging and invoicing – then it’s obsolete and you probably don’t need to read on. Throw it out. But just in case…

It’s becoming increasingly unreliable. And so much so it has become part of the working culture of the company, the number of the outsourced IT supplier is on speed-dial, and everyone knows the quirky fixes to get it up and running again ‘for now’. But don’t fool yourself into believing that it’s a hardware issue. The more separate, non-integrated programmes you are running, the greater the likelihood for conflict between them.

It doesn’t work away from the office. If your front line can’t access your management system from where they are working, then it’s time to change up. Canvassers, sales people, surveyors, fitters and remedial engineers should all be in direct contact with the office through their own portable devices using specially designed apps.

New users hate it. New employees need to come to terms with your systems, but if they come from a similar firm it will pay to learn what they used previously and how yours compares. Of course, their previous system might also have been clunky and out of date, in which case you won’t learn much but you will be able to make comparisons.

Don’t put them on the spot but see how easily they assimilate your system and ask them for comments, which will be all the more useful because they are not yet in the ‘user rut’.

It doesn’t work well across departments. If your CRM is actually several systems that might or might not be interlinked, then you are definitely going to benefit from an upgrade, or actually, total overhaul. When systems do not talk to each other you will duplicate tasks, re-enter data over and over taking time, making mistakes and generally asking for trouble.

Imagine single input of data running throughout every department in your company, updated in real time, seamlessly. Yes, that’s what you can do these days. And with systems designed specifically with retail window, door and conservatory installers in mind.

You’ve run out of space. OK, a hardware issue predominantly, as your hard drives fill up. But simply chucking faster and more powerful computers at the problem will reveal other flaws as the software simply can’t run as fast as the machinery it sits on.

It’s all you talk about. Finally, you know it’s time to change your management system when it’s all you talk about. The culture of the company will suffer and more and more errors and issues even including poor sales will be blamed on the system and often disguising the real problems.

Modern systems, developed specifically for window and door installers, will actually help you drive sales, improve accuracy, speed payment and leave the customer feeling valued and confident. And they are the best source of your next sale.