All Systems Fail: Is Your Company Outgrowing its Current Systems?
As I think back to all of the companies eForge has worked with over the past few years it’s hard to remember the specific problems that caused them to reach out to us. What stands out most are the people, all of whom were facing more or less the same situation: what worked for them yesterday is failing them today.
Every day, employees of businesses large and small rely on a variety of systems to perform, track and manage some of their more routine work. Some of these systems include:
- Commercial Off-The-Shelf Software or SaaS Products
This includes products like Quickbooks, Microsoft Dynamics, SharePoint, Salesforce, Smartsheet, Trello, etc.
This can include any spreadsheet program or cloud-based software like Excel, Google Docs, Google Sheets, etc.
- Physical Tracking Systems
This includes whiteboards, cork boards, task tracking systems and even paper-based management.
As companies grow, their systems begin to under-perform. There’s lots of reasons for this – regulation and compliance, greater risk, more people, more diverse offerings, among other things.
As challenges increase, how do companies create systems that allow them to adapt to growth and the changing dynamics of their business?
These are the questions our team at eForge is always asking as we work with CEOs and their teams.
As I was thinking back to all of the people we’ve worked with, I realized there was a common set of problems that our clients – from the leasing agent to the CEO – were experiencing daily:
- Decreasing operational visibility
- Increasing customer acquisition costs
- The constant need to hire
- Shrinking margins
- Decreasing productivity & efficiency
- Increasing reporting requirements
- Multiple systems to work in
- Decreasing quality
- Longer wait cycles
- Declining customer service or support
- Increasing complication or confusion
So what you’re left with is:
- Managers feeling a lack of control and somewhat helpless as sales and costs grow.
- Employees feeling inefficient and micro-managed.
- Customers feeling ignored, confused and frustrated.
The issues above are just symptoms of the real problem – the existing systems in your company are starting to breakdown and fail your people.
One example of this can be seen with one of our recent clients, a fast-growing student housing community. Management knew from customer and employee feedback that they needed to achieve the following:
- Improve the leasing experience for prospective tenants.
- Streamline the workflow for their employees.
However, our client was constrained by their current system, a popular leasing and property management SaaS product. There were a number of downsides to this system:
- The leasing module wasn’t designed for student-based housing, where each unit can have multiple leases.
- There was no tracking for renewals on a per-unit basis.
- The application process for prospective tenants was entirely paper-based and couldn’t be tracked inside the system.
- The SaaS provider was unwilling to add features for large clients and didn’t offer an open API for third-party integration or add-ons.
- The pricing model was complex and always increasing – there were hidden “convenience fees” charged to tenants and “processing fees” charged to prospective tenants for applying.
Because of these issues, the leasing agents began keeping track of signed leases and guarantor forms for each group of tenants in a Google Sheet. This freed up some time, but they still had to spend the majority of their time and energy tracking down signatures, hassling prospective tenants for deposit cheques, and reminding existing tenants to renew. This was inefficient and frustrating for the leasing agents and the prospective tenants.
Management was also struggling. They had almost no visibility regarding key metrics: Units Available, Units Leased, Units Pending, Number of Tenants, etc.
When we kicked-off the engagement with our client, we started by talking to the leasing agents; they were a gold mine of information. Since they were already working outside of the property management system, they devised a simple and scalable workflow that
(1) was a great candidate for custom software and
(2) did not rely on integration with their current system.
How do you know if your company is outgrowing its current systems?
We usually start by having one-on-one conversations with employees. We start out by asking them some simple questions:
- How many systems do you use on a daily basis?
- What would you change about your current system?
- Do you have to work outside of, or around, the current system with spreadsheets or other tools?
- What part of your job is the most time consuming?
- Is there anything you’re doing that’s a waste of time?
- Is there anything you’re doing that’s being duplicated somewhere else?
- Is your current process or workflow well-documented?
- How much time do you/your employees spend getting real work done?
- Have you seen a more efficient process or system at other companies?
- Do tasks ever get dropped or forgotten?
If you’re feeling any of the frustrations we outlined earlier, then remember – what’s working for you today will fail you tomorrow. To start tackling the complexities that growth brings, or even just bad software, create a conversation with your employees. The questions above are a great place to start.
Additionally, please contact us if you think your company is ready for a custom-business software solution.