Friday 28 September 2012
When I was a humble developer moving my way through the ranks into management, directorship and then ownership of a business my views of building and buying software have changed considerably.
When I started in IT, home PC’s were a relatively new thing.
Windows (the software kind) had not been written yet, Lotus was the only spreadsheet in Town, business applications were ran on huge, expensive mainframes.
Software was for the big boys. For the smaller companies, pen, paper, folders and filing cabinets were the most practical way of recording and finding stuff.
As I got into IT, if there was a problem that could be solved by code, I’d write some software to do the job and use it internally.
In the “olden days”, there wasn’t a plethora of pre-canned tools to choose from and even if there was one, it would be too expensive to justify buying.
Today things are so different.
There are so many off the shelf applications you can use. For starters there is Microsoft Office. Love it or hate it, it’s affordable and provides you with some of the essential tools for running your home office or small business.
With EXCEL you have the world’s most popular reporting and business intelligence tool. Over 600 million people use Excel so it can’t be that bad!
Sure it has its limitations and eventually a business that uses EXCEL for its management reporting will end up in chaos.
Trying to sift through thousands of non-standard spread sheets to get to some form of unified view of the business is not practical once you get over a certain size.
As I got into business, I understood the merits of spending a bit of cash on EXCEL for your finances, WORD for your contracts and Power point for your investor presentations etc… but I was then faced with other business challenges which cried out for new software based solutions.
As we were developing and selling software we needed a support desk, as we were signing up more and more customers and needed to keep track of sales pipeline and deliverables, as we were employing more and more people we needed a HR department, as we need to track business performance better we needed analysis tools (which was not a problem as this is what we do – build BI technology…) , as we were buying and selling more and more things we needed a Finance and Accounts department etc… etc…
So throughout this cycle of growth at what point do you decide that EXCEL and WORD is not enough?
In my youth, I used to think CRM was for Sissies. HR systems were for Wimps and ERP systems were for companies with too much money to spend and a business that must be able to run itself due to the huge distraction and effort involved in implementing a SAP or a Dynamics.
The reality is somewhat different…
As your business grows, and even to help it grow in the first place, there is a balancing act between getting by what you have and investing in technology to help stream line and improve your business processes.
Having been very much a build it myself guy, I have a greater appreciation of the benefits well written software can bring to your business as well as the financial risks in investing and not investing in software.
Whilst we’ll never need to invest in BI software, CRM is not for Sissies, it’s for people who need to keep a good handle on their customers, their pipeline and their relationships. ERP… now that’s a bit too big to chew at the moment but give it 5 years…