Part 1: Proactively Addressing Business Problems
Welcome to our four-part series, Business Productivity and Technological Solutions. In this series we’ll walk you through how to address business problems, discovering what technological solutions your business needs, comparing available technologies, and whether to build or buy solutions. With our first entry, we'll discuss how you can be proactive through active listening, goal prioritization, and research and development, to avoid and address business problems.
Those Who Wait will Always be Behind
Common problems businesses have often emerge from the lack of policy change, not adapting to growth, and aging technology solutions. These problems are not limited to struggling companies, however; even the most successful businesses encounter crossroads in which they’ve found themselves facing these situations. Businesses who are pro-active instead of re-active will always have an edge over the competition. When trying to establish a preventative solution, businesses should have a system for analyzing the productivity and value of their current business process:
- Is the process efficient and effective?
- Do the workers have the resources they need?
- How many people are affected by this?
Key components in setting up a proactive defence for business problems include active listening, goal prioritization, and constant research and development.
Active Listening: What are People Saying?
Listening is one of the most understated yet essential priorities for addressing and preventing business problems. When developing a culture in your workforce, hiring people - especially in management positions - who can build quality work relationships allows you to better understand the plight of your employees. All managers should have good relationships with the employees directly under them and understand what tools and resources they need to be successful at their jobs.
What are these employees saying? Are there not enough hours in the day? Are certain tools or processes slowing down their work efforts? Businesses who don’t actively listen to their employees often fall behind, and can do so very quickly. For example:
A growing furniture company recently moved its stock to a larger shipping warehouse. To accommodate for the growth, they hired a few new warehouse workers. Even with the additional workers, business data shows productivity has slowed and workers can’t meet shipping deadlines. In a board meeting, the warehouse manager brings to light that employees are having trouble with the inventory management system. The system was tailored to the old warehouse and was never properly updated to account for the new space’s additional loading docks and storage bays. This left workers manually entering data on their scanners. Over time, orders were being misplaced, the inventory management system became out of sync, and orders were backed up.
By listening to managers and employees, this problem could have been addressed immediately or even prevented if there was better communication earlier in the process. Although, for many businesses, communication is absent when it’s needed most. Without listening to the manager (who listened to the employees and brought the problem to light), the company would have continued struggling to meet deadlines, causing a greater loss in sales and business.
Get Everyone On Board with Goal Prioritization
Setting specific goals (based on expected outcomes) and communicating them to your staff should always be a top priority. Managers and employees should all know the company’s goals and what exactly it takes to get there. A clarity of goals brings quality to your processes. Your goals will have complications if the people who are involved don’t know how to achieve them.
With the example of the furniture company, goal prioritization could have been a determining factor in avoiding their dilemma all together. As a growing business, their goal when relocating warehouses was to increase their capacity to take on larger shipments. They understood that when moving to a larger location they would need more workers, which they hired. They didn’t however, anticipate the need to update their inventory management systems.
The problem here is that the furniture company moved forward with its goal before everyone else was on board. Someone should have recognized the potential issues that could come from using their old inventory management system.
Invest in the Future, The Future is Now
How do you know what future solutions your company might need when you’re not even there yet? This comes with ongoing research and development—through active listening and goal prioritization:
- Set goals for your company and understand how to get there.
- Actively listen to your employees and find out what they need to reach this end goal.
- Review your current processes and find their weaknesses.
- Implement new solutions that will provide employees with the resources they need.
In the case of the furniture company, they didn’t fully understand how to reach the end goal; in turn they lost business during the transition to their new warehouse. Had they updated their old inventory management system or implemented a new one, their business problem could have been avoided.
Outgrowing technological solutions is a common business problem, which is why research and development should remain constant. Waiting to act will only allow current issues to escalate. It’s important to realize when you’ve outgrown (or will soon outgrow) your current processes and proactively address them to avoid future problems. To be proactive, continually listen to your employees, prioritize your goals, communicate and get everyone on board, and most importantly, invest in the research and development of your business productivity solutions. While the process of finding the right solution isn’t always easy, you can always pair with a knowledgeable technology solutions company that can help discover the underlying issues of your current business processes and develop a custom solution for your business’s unique needs.
For more on how to discover what solutions your business needs, check out Part 2: How to Run a Software Needs Discovery.