If your business is a typical startup you’re already using a dozen or more business applications across your organization. Some of these tools are only relevant to specific jobs, teams or departments, while others impact the entire organization. These tools are costing your company money and like any investment, should be providing a return.
In this post I’m going to share five ways you can get more value from your business applications.
1. Assign ownership
Each new tool you adopt should have a designated owner. This individual is responsible - and accountable - for maximizing the utility from the tool, training others in the organization on how to use the tool, and helping to determine if the tool should be replaced when competitors enter the market.
The owner of the tool is also responsible for renewal, staying up to date on changes to the service, and in engaging relevant stakeholders to determine if it is an ongoing good fit for the company.
In the case of company-wide tools like your CRM or reporting platform, specialists or consultants should be hired to ensure these tools are implemented and used correctly. The more people interacting with the tool, the more seriously you should take its ownership.
2. Leverage your data
Most best-in-class business tools allow you to import data in some way or another in order to maximize value from the service. A great example of this is a typical CRM system such as Salesforce. Salesforce allows you to enrich your contacts via their API and constantly keep product usage, user demographics and other useful information as part of the contact record. This enables your sales and account management staff to view insights into the critical lifecycle and adoption milestones of contacts in their ownership.
As a general rule I’d suggest going with tools which are “data-friendly”. This approach will help provide you with more value as the company becomes more data-driven over time.
3. Establish a business operations department in your organization
If you and your key executives commit to building a centralized function of individuals responsible for improving the operational efficiency of your company, then by default you’ll get more value from your tools and systems.
A typical early stage business ops team will comprise of business analysts, business applications managers and sales, marketing or customer success ops.
Once you have the first few members in place you can start hiring specialists in certain business applications or assigning responsibility to members of the team. The classic example is CRM admins.
Investing in business operations is a big commitment with a lot of complexity and costs. You shouldn’t take the decision lightly.
4. Perform a quarterly audit of your business applications
The CFO (Chief Financial Officer) is the best suited person in your organization to perform a quarterly audit of your business applications. The CFO knows where every dollar goes and should be able to draw up a list of tools that the company is paying for.
Once the list is drawn up, the CFO should determine which department is using what and if the tool is in fact being used (and whether or not it’s delivering value from that use). This process may result in under-performing services being dropped and overlapping tools being consolidated.
If the employees of the company know they need to justify the costs involved in the tools they use once a quarter, they will be more likely to maximize the value that’s possible from the tool.
In some organizations three or more tools which perform the same service are being used by different teams. This process will help simplify things by reducing the number of tools being used in the organization.
If your CFO has enough on his plate, then outsource this project to a senior analyst or someone else in ops.
5. Use a “show and tell” to share internal knowledge, capabilities and best practices for use
Once a quarter you could host a “show and tell” meet where different teams can show the company some of the more impressive projects they have worked on. Such an evening not only improves morale but also helps share knowledge and capabilities that exist within the organization.
An analyst that shows an impressive dashboard that was built to help the CFO may trigger more requests from product or marketing that want to improve their own reporting.
Tools like Zapier, Pipedrive, Segment and Mixpanel are great examples of tools which can provide direct and indirect value to many different departments. The capabilities of these tools should be shared with more individuals in the organization so more employees can see what’s possible, and as a result, raise the return on investment on these tools.
This post was written by Justin B, a phenomenal professional who actively and very successfully services clients via the MeasureMatch professional services marketplace. Justin is an experienced business analyst and BI infrastructure specialist. He is also the founder of ProjectBI, an educational site and community for analysts, ops specialists and data-driven entrepreneurs.
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