While our current economic state is one that most businesses have never experienced, the need to evaluate processes and optimize efficiencies is a no longer an option that can be put off to the next planning cycle.
This economy will rebound, and companies that can preserve capital and smart investments in innovative technologies will have “first mover advantage” when the economy begins to recover. Even today it is possible to rise above the turbulence and separate yourself from the competition.
A good first step towards getting a business to adjusting to leaner times is to identify major inefficiencies within the company – and rather than taking out the proverbial scissors and cutting programs – attempt to find an affordable solution that can not only help resolve the issues, but also provide some much needed confidence in the direction of your business.
However, with so many innovations in IT, companies must do their homework to select the technologies that will work best for their business needs and provide a quick ROI.
Head in the cloud
In the interest of affordability and ROI, many companies are using their limited IT budgets to invest in SaaS solutions – or bringing their business to the cloud. Currently, cloud computing is moving forward and away from a single application focus (like CRM or Web analytics) to an alternative computing platform that includes advanced internal and external data integration and exchange. These advancements cannot be ignored by organizations, especially with the ability to offer a new level of analytic collaboration across departments, organizations or extended enterprise networks.
Information and analytic communities can be enabled to share or exchange data across a cloud in secure manner. Proven “opt-in” networking concepts can be applied to business information and new business eco systems that can be enabled easily. Businesses don’t want to set up servers, develop data warehouses or data marts and then be saddled with the cost to maintain them.
In today’s economy, you should expect a well defined process around data integrity and security, to allow IT departments to focus on the critical systems that make the business competitive.
Take business intelligence (BI) technologies. With so many advancements in on-demand BI offerings, companies have the ability to take a virtual “look in the mirror” through the aggregation, reporting and analysis of business data. SaaS BI can also be easily distributed to business partners for increased transparency and greater effectiveness, building reciprocal business relationships.
With the right BI tools in place, companies within healthcare, e-commerce, insurance, consumer packaged goods, retail, technology and others, have received greater profitability through a deeper understanding of their business, allowing companies to quickly and efficiently become aware of – and improve upon – lagging areas of the business.
Collaborate with partners
It’s a fact that businesses are fighting for less dollars, so keeping your existing customers in this economy is vital. One way to ensure strong customer relationships is to create a transparent supply chain (regardless of what industry you are in), allowing your customers to see how their product or service is working within your business – or vice-versa. This kind of increased transparency allows companies to operate in a more predictive environment that provides the ability to take advantage of increased demand or better anticipate “low” periods.
Think of this as a shoe company and an athletic store. If the athletic store implemented a technology that provided the shoe company with a look at how shoes were selling in their stores, both companies would benefit through the ability to identify the most popular selling shoes, price-points that drive sales or when the store might run out of size 9 in women’s runners.
This example reflects just one store and one company – now think about the benefits if all of the shoe suppliers had this information on hand and the store was actually a chain of stores in every major city in the U.S. This would allow both the stores and shoe suppliers to know which shoes are more popular on the east coast than west coast or which stores are running low on supply. This important information maximizes inventory distribution and helps avoid overstocking.
Don’t just survive, thrive!
The time is now to get ahead of the competition by looking at all aspects of your business to make sure your not only survive the current economic malaise, but prosper in it. According to Gartner, Inc. “through 2012, more than 35 percent of the top 5,000 global companies will regularly fail to make insightful decisions about significant changes in their business and markets.” Furthermore, most organizations do not have the information, processes and tools needed to make informed, responsive decisions due to underinvestment in information infrastructure and business tools.
In order to thrive in business over the next few years, businesses must have systems in place to bring greater awareness to the decision making process and SaaS solutions are an affordable way to implement such a strategy, according to Gartner.
The following are three positive aspects of SaaS and how it can benefit your business:
- Affordable Innovation: By adopting SaaS solutions and moving aspects of business to the cloud, a company is not buying any fixed (physical) assets, thus providing an affordable, low-risk solution without the financial obstacles associated with capital expenditures. On-demand technologies allow organizations to pay for only what they need and only when they need it. ROI is far more likely to be realized and surpassed in a short amount of time than a customized on-premise solution managed by a businesses IT department.
- Information Sharing: To react quickly and intelligently to changing market conditions, employees, partners, and customers must have easy access to the up-to-date information as it applies to specific business goals. Decision need to be made on fact, not gut feeling. Having access to information 24/7 will help you make fast, fact-based decisions, gain fresh insights, and grow a profitable, highly competitive company.
- Know Your Business, Know Your Customers: To thrive in the current economy, end-to-end awareness of your business will make the difference in whether your company just stays afloat or generates growth. Share your newfound awareness with your customers and partners to help improve the flow of business between you and them. Finally, invest in solutions that supply the best information to make good decisions for your business and produce confidence in the boardroom, client meeting or new business deal.
Again, what’s important to remember is that there are affordable technologies available to provide some “pop” to any lagging area of a business. The cloud is an exciting place to move your business processes and adopting a robust business intelligence solution is a must have if you’re interested in elevating awareness of your businesses’ strengths and weaknesses to make better decisions and ultimately increase profitability.
Quentin Gallivan is the CEO of PivotLink and has more than 20 years of leadership in the hi-tech industry. He has held a variety of senior executive positions with market leading companies such as Postini, VeriSign, Netscape and the General Electric Company.