It’s a famous paradox: despite rapid technological change and innovation there has not been the expected growth in productivity in many businesses. Industry has seized on technology to reduce the time and effort for repetitive processes, but often it doesn’t work as effectively as it should. In fact, it regularly ends up costing a business more than it saves, with the original cost benefit analysis long forgotten.
The IT that saves time and cost for a process needs a team of dedicated staff to support its operation. The regular necessary and costly updates and upgrades are often money spent simply to stand still. And even with teams of people working to keep the system going, it can be “spreadsheet central” according to Roy Spencer, Founder and MD of Iskra Consulting and expert in taking a holistic view of the people, processes, technology, and strategy within a business. This means effort is going into performing functions that should be fully automated, he tells me, which ultimately shows that the IT system is not being utilised effectively.
The Problem of Too Much Customisation
One of the problems, says Roy, comes when an IT system has been heavily customised to fit the needs of a business:
Many businesses think they are unique, and have IT systems specially adapted. But this causes problems in the long run; upgrades become complicated and costly. Where systems are badly configured, and the people who understood the intricacies of the system move on, the problem only gets worse.
But how can businesses tackle this problem of massive inefficiency without their IT system becoming a bottomless money pit? “Keep it ‘Vanilla’”, says Roy. “The fewer customisations made to a well-designed system, the better,” he explains. “If necessary, adapt your organisation to the system, not the other way round.”
If the capabilities of the system are not fully understood, functionalities can be switched off without users realising. Roy has seen vastly expensive customised systems that aren’t being used properly because the staff haven’t been fully trained. It appears that the system doesn’t meet the needs of the business, and so the business buys another costly customised system, and the whole process begins again, sometimes before the original system has paid for itself.
The Solution to IT Inefficiency
Fortunately, Roy takes a holistic approach to the businesses he works with and is often able to stop such expensive mistakes in their tracks. He takes a look at the entire company to guide effective change, starting in the areas that will have the biggest impact.
Tangible benefits come from ownership of the IT systems by the business, where system owners drive the process and system across functional boundaries with clear and visible support comes from the top, says Roy. This kind of change is only successfully implemented with support from the top and a clear understanding of the consequences of not changing.
It is too easy to get trapped by a poorly configured system into a way of working that is difficult to escape from and it can prevent the business moving forward into Industry 4.0 and all the benefits that can be derived from digitalisation, IOT, AI and Machine Learning
The gold standard, says Roy, is in laying the right foundations for your IT system, ownership by the business, not the IT Department, driven by people who are trained and skilled in its use to meet the needs of the business.
Optimising your IT systems can deliver benefits as varied and far-reaching as optimised logistics and supply chain performance, improved warehouse management, lower stock holdings, efficiencies in purchases, higher machine utilisation and less downtime. IT spending in the right place gives broad results across the business for greater control and increased profitability. To find out whether your tech is holding you back, or whether there’s something else in your business that needs an update, visit www.iskraconsultingltd.com to discover how Roy can help your business move forward successfully.