Three ways your team can leverage software to get ahead.
Custom service teams from manufacturing to software development face similar challenges when it comes to growth. Scaling an operation is a bit more challenging when the delivery is a bit different with each project. While business leaders look for a balance between keeping operations lean and investing in the future, it can be challenging to decide where to invest to make the biggest impact.
As custom project teams position themselves to scale, the processes and tools in use should be based on a strong foundation and a few next level strategies. If your team is spending a lot of time in meetings, missing milestones, or complaining about tools and spreadsheets being out of sync, it might be time to look into improving the solutions. A variety of software as a service (SaaS) options can easily be deployed to fill software gaps in dispatching, documentation, and every niche of an operation.
Organizations today tend to implement software early to manage core processes like accounting, payroll, and inventory. With free and inexpensive solutions available through Wave, Odoo, Quickbooks Online, or Xero, business leaders can select the right financial foundation for their organization regardless of size.
As implementation and licensing costs become increasingly competitive, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems like Deltek, Plex, and Intacct are increasing in popularity in small and mid-sized business market, especially manufacturing and construction. ERPs bring together sales, project management, accounting, and other core processes in one system in order to generate powerful views and reports.
Even with the power of ERP, many teams utilize additional specialized tools that work well for their specific needs. These systems often connect to the core systems to keep data in sync or generate reports, depending on the use case.
Commonly, these initiatives initially start with a prototype, like a spreadsheet. However, as teams grow they need more reliable, usable systems. Growth-minded project teams commonly leverage powerful, specialized tools in the following three areas in order to maximize their growth potential.
1. Sales and Marketing Automation Tools.
At a minimum, sales teams need a place to store and share customer information. Customer Resource Management (CRM) tools are used to track information about leads and contacts. This serves not only as a historical repository but also allows for more advanced activities, like forecasting revenue. For teams that don’t have a CRM included in their core system already, a needs assessment can help identify what type of solution would benefit your team.
For basic needs, HubSpot has a free CRM with a mobile app. They make their money on the optional, integrated automation tools. Marketing automation can be used to identify key traits, request additional information, and assign follow-up activities. For next-level CRM needs, marketing automation tools like Salesforce and Marketo can help proactively generate and nurture leads.
Anticipating the incoming workload is vital to timing commitments, hiring efforts, and fine-tuning channel strategies. For teams looking to increase visibility, Ascend Sales Forecasting or a custom integration may provide the insight for anticipating your team’s needs.
2. Estimation and Quoting Tools
For custom project teams, estimating project costs before the deal closes can be a significant investment. In this case, there are often strategic opportunities to make the process more efficient. Though enterprise systems are often built to handle quoting, the highly custom bids and changing rates associated with industrial automation and software development tend to require more flexibility than these systems allow.
Ascend Estimation & Quoting provides a powerful, easy-to-use experience for estimating custom or semi-custom projects. Templates allow reproducible elements to be built and deployed again and again, while allowing for uncertainty through the contingency helps engineers create ballpark estimates while allowing for certainty.
Experienced estimators leverage the final costs from past projects to create new estimates, adjusting for change and lessons learned. Integrating estimation tools with accounting or ERP systems opens the door to smarter systems.
3. Capacity Planning Tools
Can you anticipate the downstream effects if you pull one of your lead engineers off task next week and assign them to an urgent service request instead? Can your team foresee issues in the production pipeline and plan for busy and slow seasons? This process is a lot harder for custom project teams than it is for low mix/high volume production environment.
If your team is still cross-checking the company calendar, vacation schedule, and project schedule in three or more places, chances are that your current system is falling short in this area. Utilizing Smartsheet Resource Planning or LiquidPlanner can provide lightweight, standalone solutions, while Ascend Workflow Insights can create a more seamless, fully integrated solution.
As technological possibilities continue to evolve, we are seeing a shift in the way savvy leaders look at these kinds of decisions. Where intuition and experience once reigned supreme, executives across industries are looking to their data for clues on how to incite and manage their team’s growth. This means investing in connected systems that facilitate visibility.
Growth-minded business leaders ultimately need to identify their organization’s unique set of key performance indicators (KPIs) and consider how they intend to monitor those metrics. Between IoT and smart machines and tools like Workato, today’s leaders should expect access to this information at their fingertips.
Success relies on a well-informed strategic analysis, clean data, and appropriate team response to be effective.
Creating a Digital Transformation Plan
Business software solutions are often implemented in phases, allowing time for research, training, and feedback. Though smaller teams may tolerate change more quickly, a team’s core values, combined personalities, and leadership style should factor into the strategy.
A phased approach can help ensure that the team is focusing on solving problems in the right order. In this case, a workflow analysis is a great initial step towards prioritizing goals and immediate action items. The resulting transformation plan is a tool for keeping the leadership team on track and can be revisited as time goes on and goals evolve.
Though individual solutions vary widely by industry, specialization, and organization, successful implementation relies on a well-informed strategic analysis, clean data, and appropriate team response to be effective. If your team needs help creating a digital transformation strategy or taking the steps needed for implementation, get in touch.