Quickbooks and Excel are NOT an End to End Business Operating System
If I had to do it all over again, the one tool I would implement without question or delay would be an integrated operating systems solution. One built for my Industry would be preferable. It is so important to know your metrics and to have information flow that helps keep teams on track day to day.
Traditional monthly financial statements neither go deep enough nor are they timely enough to provide credible input.
Excel spreadsheets that are used to quote the business, leave the company exposed to product, pricing and systems customization that may not be efficiently included. They are for legal and tax purposes. Rarely do they provide the business information needed to guide business. One needs to dynamically query job progress, know the roadblocks, successes, learnings, as well as the hours invested against the time sold or expected.
Thousands of Choices, But Segmented
A quick look at internet offerings can be mind bending. Thousands of solutions are available, geared to specific businesses or business elements from planning, sales and project management, procurement, communications, human resources and employee management, payment systems, collaboration and many more. These systems go wide and go deep.
Based on my experience, there are a few essentials that I believe should be included in any automated business system:
- The most important thing is that the software is relevant to the business.
- It reflects and understands terminology and business processes so there is less need to ‘adapt’ the information flow to be better aligned.
- Reflects the primary business segments specific to sales, project management, personnel, payroll etc
- Inventory management is aligned and supplier relationships in progress or underway to make JIT and custom pricing easy to manage
- Has an ongoing commitment to improvement and to engaging input from its users, which if centric to a specific business segment can be very powerful as processes and solutions are rolled out. The solution is responsive to the core metrics that drive the industry and therefore the businesses
In our industry, more and more, products are JIT and suppliers are open to working with the business to ensure flow and minimize exposure to stale inventory.
People, Product, and Money
A firm that can manage its people, knows its cost of labor, and has clearly outlined operating procedures to optimize is virtually assured of their profitability. This is no easy task. I have been shocked at how many solid businesses have been misguided by their Accountants/bookkeepers and do not have responsive business operating systems. Online bookkeeping systems are not going to help with the metrics and insights that are more and more table stakes in today’s businesses. Especially so in our detailed Industry.
System Integrators run many projects alongside, some can extend over years, some are instant. Running our operations as if they are standard retail organizations, where cost of goods sold is predictable, is risky. More importantly, it can mislead, or obscure important metrics as well as misstate inventory levels. Meaningful job costing should be the priority so that improvements and a clear understanding of the impact of best practices can be visible and trusted.