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The Hidden Value of Integrated Software Systems

Brian Kinney
November 1, 2021
10 min read

Running a business is a high-stakes balancing act. Accounting, inventory, talent acquisition,  and customer relationship management are just some of the countless items that business owners, operations managers, and other executive-level employees need to manage and master simultaneously. 

In addition, you have to actively keep in mind the most important rule of all: in order to succeed, you need to keep moving forward. 

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of tasks and responsibilities that come with the territory of operating a small business. Even with reliable employees to delegate to, the hardest-working small business owners and executives still struggle to sort through and properly prioritize everything that needs to be done. There’s no one size fits all method to success—every business in every industry (not to mention every business owner and executive) is different. The challenges each face are different, sometimes drastically so, and will require different solutions.

When time is of the essence—which almost always seems like the case—it can be tempting to just simply get to work. Simply “getting to work”, implies answering the first email that you see, handling the first employee request you receive, or otherwise jumping into the throes of daily labor. In other words, many people responsible for overseeing numerous tasks and departments default to focusing entirely on a single task without always keeping in mind the bigger picture of what needs to be accomplished. 

Integrated Software Systems Help You Work Smarter

Abraham Lincolns stands with axe

Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as having said, “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”

There’s something comforting about working hard. It provides purpose, clarity, and the peaceful satisfaction of pure, unadulterated accomplishment. Hard work is the foundation of any business and is a core personality trait of any successful businessperson. Hard work is the foundation of anything worthwhile and substantial in this world. 

For someone whose job description centers around a singular or just a small handful of tasks (i.e. making cold calls, assembling a product, or counting inventory) putting your head down and getting to work is typically the best course of action. 

But those who manage small businesses at a high level know all too well that their job description is never just one thing. It’s about being a career chameleon—sometimes the job calls for being a marketing director, sometimes it calls for being an accountant. Other times it calls for being a hands-off facilitator that’s able to successfully delegate and put others in a position to succeed.

Because small business leadership roles are so prone to widely fluctuating responsibilities, it’s not (just) about hard work. It’s about smart work. 

It’s not about any one email, sale, or decision. It’s about all of them. It’s about how they affect each other, how processes are able to cohesively mesh with one another, how action items are prioritized, and how keeping a big-picture perspective at all times enhances the effectiveness of your business strategy. It requires every small decision to be made with the business’ overarching, long-term goals in mind.

Analyzing Unintegrated Software Systems and Inefficient Processes

Sometimes, it even requires taking a further step backward to understand how and why tasks are completed, and whether the processes for completing them can be improved upon.

integrated business software

Taking a step backward to address the big “whys” and “hows” of the processes and procedures within your business is often one of the most difficult things for business owners to do.

When your business is already successful, it actually makes this process of introspection and analysis a bit harder. The “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality reigns with authority in the headspace of many business owners.

It isn’t about fixing something that is broken—don’t change what your business does (selling car parts, repairing computers, shipping home decor, etc.) but rather it’s about updating and adjusting the processes, methods, and integrated business software solutions surrounding how your business goes about achieving these goals.

For example:

If you have been successfully reaching customers via word of mouth in order to sell your products, you may want to ask “How can I market my products more effectively, profitably, and on a larger scale?”

Suppose you have been successfully tracking your inventory and sales by utilizing spreadsheets and actual sheets of paper. In that case, you may want to ask “How can I more reliably sort, analyze, and keep my data safe?”

If you have been successfully sending field technicians to their job sites but have been exclusively using text messages and phone calls to communicate financial, customer, and job site data, you might ask “How can I implement a more streamlined system for transmitting sensitive data from the field to the office and vice versa?”

What do the processes described in these common scenarios all have in common? 

  1. The processes being relied upon are unintegrated and disconnected.
  2. These processes are centered around outdated technology or inefficient methodologies.
  3. The unintegrated and antiquated nature of these processes does not allow for a clear, big-picture focus to be implemented at every level of decision-making and action, hindering growth, scalability, and profitability.

For small businesses, the first step to moving forward should be to take a step back and analyze the process-level improvements that can be made in terms of utilizing technology to optimize workflows and processes.

This isn’t to say that every procedure within your company needs to be overhauled or that every piece of technology your business owns is now rendered useless—it’s about making sure that every procedure within your company is connected in the most optimal fashion, and that employees are going about their business in the most efficient way possible. From accounting to CRM to projects to onboarding, the interconnectedness of data points and information is a catalyst for better strategic and financial outcomes.

For small businesses, it pays to take note of the strategies large enterprises are backing:

  • Data-driven companies are growing at a rate of about 30% annually.
  • Data-driven companies are 20x more likely to attract customers and 6x more likely to retain them.
  • 91.9% of leading companies are accelerating their “big data” investments.

It’s worth noting that these organizations have a (much) higher budget than small businesses do. They will be able to leverage gargantuan data sets from across the globe faster than any small business is capable of. That doesn’t diminish the fact that the strategy of utilizing fully integrated systems is a winning one. In fact, there are many ways that small businesses can put the same strategies to work.

Before these organizations implemented innovative, integrated business management technology in order to leverage their data, they made the important first step that we discussed earlier: taking a step back to assess what improvements could be made to their existing processes and operations and what downsides arise due to disconnected systems. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most common challenges caused by process inefficiencies at the technological level and the effects that addressing these problems at their root can have.

Challenges Caused By Disconnected Software Systems

Delayed Data and Reporting

Having accurate data is good—but having accurate, real-time, and easily accessible data is great. When relying on various and scattered spreadsheets, text messages, and emails to find important information, both accuracy and efficiency suffer, leading to slower overall time to task completion.

In all, businesses lose about 20% of their potential revenue due to poor-quality data.

This could potentially have a trickle-down effect in all phases of your business. For example, an incorrect or lagging inventory count will throw sales numbers into a state of confusion, therefore increasing the amount of time accountants spend trying to find accurate information. They’ll need to consult various records in order to rectify the numbers. Not only will this result in wasted time, it could potentially result in a customer not being able to fulfill their order due to incorrect inventory figures. 

Wasted Productivity

Time is always of the essence—when it comes to the information that your business needs to function each day, the less time that can be spent searching for the accurate version of said information eats into productivity. In fact, if there are multiple versions of the same data at all, that should be an indicator that this is a process to be improved upon.

business management efficiency integrated software

Wasted time hurts businesses in more ways than one. When employees at all levels are utilizing inefficient processes, it not only takes away from additional productivity, it lowers the overall accuracy of the information, therefore leading to an increased lack of productivity by having to solve errors when they arise. Yes, errors are inevitable, but taking substantial efforts to reduce their frequency and severity will pay off in the long run.

Increased Cost

While faulty data and decreased productivity lead to reduced revenue, there are other elements that can lead to inefficient processes and systems that generate an increased cost.

Odds are, you utilize some sort of technology to manage your customer data, accounting needs, and other standard types of operations. Are these technologies built to connect to each other? When something goes wrong, is there a single entity you can contact, or will you have to spend additional time and money on customer support from various technology providers to get to the root of the problem? Have you had to spend additional time both learning and teaching your employees the ins and outs of several, separate software systems?

With the ever-increasing costs associated with goods and labor, it’s imperative that the technology your business relies on to function properly provides a net positive cost-benefit ratio.

Wrapping Up

Integrated software systems technology can and should be used as a boon to improve your business at a holistic level. At the end of the day, technology is a means to an end—that end is making your business operate more efficiently and profitably than it did the day before. 

Brian Kinney Headshot

Brian Kinney

Brian Kinney is a business software advisor with several years of experience in implementing enterprise solutions for SMBs. His background is in customer service and inventory management within the retail industry. Brian has a love for accounting and helping businesses save time and increase their efficiency through integration and coherence in software systems. He also loves hockey and is a diehard Toronto Maple Leafs fan.