Of course, this is easier said than done. It's easy to invest in technology only to see it languish or not be used to its fullest extent. Not all applications are useful for businesses looking to stay ahead during economic downturns. Here are five handy tips for making the right IT investments.
Tip #1: Extend the value of self-service and portal technologies
Business process management solutions offer an efficient model for sharing information and collaborating with customers, partners and suppliers. Moreover, if properly applied, these solutions help create a leaner, more efficient operation and improve customer loyalty through a greater level of interaction.
Tip #2: Apply "non-event" business activity monitoring to handle the details
Organizations must stay on top of events that haven't happened (but should have), rather than simply reacting to events that occur. For example, a regular customer that has not purchased product for the past 60 days could be cause for concern. Businesses need an automated mechanism to alert management of these non-events so they can respond appropriately to keep potential issues under control. Software is proven that employs ODBC or other standards to trigger events, as well as alerts on non-events. When coupled with business analytics, they provide robust yet economical management solutions.
Tip #3: Invest in automation
Organizations always need to calculate the inaccuracies within their business. When business is good, organizations tend to work around their inaccuracies. However, when business is slower, companies must continue to deliver the same level of service, only more efficiently. Inaccuracies need to be addressed to remain competitive in the marketplace and drive down operating costs. For example, having the right products shipped to the right customer at the right time saves shipping costs and order rework, and it improves customer retention. Keeping the front and back office communicating seamlessly decreases the number of errors.
Tip #4: Consider technologies that integrate well with your existing environment
Islands of disparate applications simply cause more problems than they solve and are a drain on productivity. Choose technologies that seamlessly "speak together" so the organization is poised to respond and adapt quickly to changing business scenarios with the right knowledge.
Tip #5: Realign past implementations, ecosystems and third-party software
For various reasons, many companies invest in software but never fully implement it. Organizations need to find ways to extract further value from current implementations and modify their existing solutions to the current business need and economic climate. For example, only about 10 percent of employees in organizations have structured information access based on an ERP solution. Expanding accessibility across the enterprise would result in considerable benefits, including the ability for knowledge workers (like sales and customer service) to adapt in real time to business needs and make decisions based on a single version of the truth.
Tips in practice
Davis Controls, an international manufacturer of instrumentation, is a good example of a business successfully leveraging technology to manage data and drive efficiencies within its organization. Davis deployed a comprehensive business activity monitoring and event management solution. Because the new software was integrated with the company's existing ERP application, Davis was able to display data from any ODBC-compliant data source. This means users can dynamically access data wherever it resides in the organization, without the need for a data warehouse or data mart.
This enabled the manufacturer to streamline its business processes and improve collaboration with its customers, partners and other members of its value chain. Ultimately, the company was able to maximize its existing technology investments by transforming a growing volume of data into useful business information for front-line workers in sales, finance and other operational areas of the company.
Ultimately, businesses face the same challenges: how to harness disparate information, manage complex systems and improve the efficiency of internal processes. Companies that are able to streamline the flow of information and codify business processes by strategically investing in or drawing value from previous implementations will be better poised for success once the dark cloud of the current economy lifts.