Small goes BIG - integrated systems for entrepreneurs and small businesses

22.04.18 06:04 PM By Matt Koopmans

When I started with Aurelian Group, with 20+ years of experience in Business Application implementation for medium to very large enterprises, I initially thought "this is what I am going to do: apply my experience to enterprise transformation programs." I certainly have seen enough opportunities for these programs to go "off the rails” and had enough opportunity of learning while steering them back on track (with varying degree of success). The larger the program, the more that can go wrong, and the higher the momentum - it is more difficult to turn a mammoth tanker than a jet-ski. In my personal experience, after leaving Microsoft, I jumped from the mammoth tanker onto the jet-ski, and I realised that entrepreneurs and small business owners have an opportunity to streamline their business for a lot less investment than their brethren in the enterprise. And done well, at less cost than the non-integrated variants of the same business functionality. So, Entrepreneurs and Small Business Owners: read on!

 

The advantage of small

Being large, tall, and strong has its advantage, especially in business - resilience being a major factor. However, small organisations can be quick and nimble, in ways larger organisations can only dream of. It is easy to be nimble at the start - but how do you set up a system that retains it? What creates the ability to be nimble against growing organisational size?

·  Simple - the simpler the solution, the easier it is to maintain at different scales and velocities

·  Structured - unstructured administration grows in complexity on exponential scale

·  Flexible - a successful small business needs flexibility to grow where the demand takes it

·  Easy - easy to use, easy to maintain, allowing focus on the business, instead of the supporting software

·  Unlimited - free to move within the applications as well as away from it, you retain ownership of your data

·  Predictable cost- a predictable cost structure per user per month, that multiplies per user, but does not snowball with increased use of applications


Cost effective, value driven

Predictable cost does not necessarily mean affordable. In my own selection of tools, I have evaluated various options, each ranging from $18 to $80 per user per month. I have even looked at "free" solutions, but quickly discounted these as viable on the longer term (poor end-to-end integration, no clear path to exit, and either unclear business model on the long run, or too much reliant on self-hosting/maintenance). Being a small business, or a sole entrepreneur, it is essential that all time spent is spent growing and nurturing the business. that means that all the downstream administration as a result of business should be as little impact on time as necessary. Furthermore, all activities for a customer or potential customer should be as efficiently planned and reported as possible, so the entrepreneur can focus on being effective for the customer. It is not difficult to see how value can be added by the right business system. It is, however, more difficult to see how the value is translated after the potentially hefty monthly fee is taken into consideration. Especially for newly established business, there is a certain time lag before the money comfortably rolls in. Costs need to be effectively managed, if only to grant the business more time to build and establish before the money runs out.


What every business needs to set itself up for growth

There are a few things every business, regardless of size or purpose, needs to get in order, if it is to grow effectively. I have listed these below in a generic logical functional model but do note that whilst the activity needs to be done, it does not imply it has to be done with a business application. Manual execution of a task is still execution of a task. Business applications also do not "take over" the task, but merely help by structuring the flow of transactions. Whether there is a system supporting the functions above or not, the activity needs to be done. For instance, handing out flyers is marketing, planning activities to fulfill an order is workflow, etc. And there is no escaping the Tax-Man! The difference between a business that can support the scale and a business that will increase the administrative swamp, is the level of structure in and flow between the various tasks.


The advantage of small

Large established companies have large and established systems. That sounds great, and we should aspire to increase in size and establish our business. However, large businesses have established complexities, manual processes woven around integration gaps, and cumbersome and often downright clunky processes due to several iterations of system replacements, replacing quirky design with quirky design plus that great big shiny extra. This is one thing a small business should never want to emulate. And it is not necessary - larger established businesses have run business systems for years, decades. The system landscape now is completely different, and what is possible and within relatively easy reach today was unrealised utopia then. Here are some advantages that small businesses have now:

·  Operational Expense versus Capital Investment - the systems today are available as a utility, a monthly usage subscription.

·  Cloud scale - cloud as a delivery mechanism allows for immediate and pervasive access. Implementation has been simplified, and for Entrepreneurs can be measured in hours, instead of months.

·  Integration - more emphasis is currently provided on the "real world" integration scenarios, i.e. the CRM system will push the customer master data across other systems.

Making use of these significant advantages will set the entrepreneur or small business up for consistent execution of the core business tasks and frees up significant time for the business owners otherwise spent on chasing the administration, or keeping the workflow going.

Aurelian Group is adding solutions for Entrepreneurs and Small Business in the portfolio within the next few weeks. If you are interested in learning what we can offer, contact us.

 

Originally posted: 5 February 2018