Wiser Technology Advice Blog

Have you outgrown your systems?

Sonya Weiser - Tuesday, December 01, 2020

How do you know if your business has outgrown its systems? Deciding to upgrade or replace your systems is a big decision which should not be taken lightly. Last month I wrote about the Royal Society for the Blind and the decision to replace their customer management system. The lessons learnt from that case study can be applied to all types of software systems.

Because I am completely independent of any software vendor, I spend a lot of time researching trends and products. There’s so much available out there this could easily become a full-time job.

On November 26th I tuned in to the webinar for the ministerial launch of the ACIITC Care IT Report, prepared by the Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council. And I attended an Oracle NetSuite online conference from 17th to 19th November 2020, just one of many software vendor presentations I sit through to research what’s available, so that you don’t have to spend time on this!

Have you outgrown your systems?

Technology is at the core of every business today and there are many reasons you might have outgrown your current systems.

Garbage in equals garbage out!

Some warning signs to look out for are:

  • Your team spends more time putting data into systems than helping customers or building the business.
  • A lot of time and effort is spent finding and winning new customers because you don’t understand and market effectively to your current customers.
  • No-one agrees which or your systems is the ‘source of truth’ for data, such as a customer’s contact details.
  • The information reported out of your systems can’t be trusted because it is inconsistent, or even worse, conflicting.
  • Your business relies on Excel spreadsheets to tie together information from systems and understand what’s happening with sales and finances.

Too many systems can cause problems

Beware of the temptation to add yet another system to the mix of systems used in your business. Whilst software sales teams can be very convincing with their slick pitch, too many systems can cause you a lot of headaches.

I started my career as a software developer and one of my achievements was certification in database management (Microsoft SQL Server database administration). I therefore understand the importance of data and how difficult it is to have good clean data with a well understood architecture and source of truth for each piece of data.

Whilst we all start with the best of intentions, over time new systems and add-ons get thrown into the mix and before you know it you’re relying of lots of little systems and really important Excel spreadsheets that only one in-house expert understands.

too many systems can cause problems

Without a clear vision for your information architecture and a cohesive strategy for systems you end up with a mess of systems built up over time with each area of the business believing their system is the source of truth for the data it creates.

How much do you trust the information coming out of your systems? Do the systems report information that is different or even conflicting, that needs a lot of thought and manipulation in Excel spreadsheets?

Managing systems can become a full-time job when there’s a mess of little systems needed to keep the business running.

A complicated system architecture crease bottlenecks between systems and often requires data be entered twice or more into each system.

How much time is your team wasting on just getting data into multiple systems, when they could be spending time helping customers or building the business?

For example, if a customer tells you they’ve changed their email address and phone number, how much effort is needed to get this vital contact information correctly recorded in all your systems?

Another example is end of month processing for your financial reports. Is all the data in one system, or do you do more accounting outside of your accounting software than within it? How many Excel spreadsheets are needed before you have a set of reports suitable to present to the board?

Difficult to choose from a crowded marketplace

Once you decide you need to simplify your systems, searching for solutions can quickly become overwhelming. The marketplace for software is crowded, complicated and has many overlaps between the areas of business covered by the software systems.

The Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council report launched on 26 November 2020 notes that there are 420 software vendors in the aged care sector.

420 software providers in aged care industry

And this diagram that was shared in the Oracle online conference illustrates perfectly how crowded the landscape is around accounting software.

complex systems environment

Wiser Technology Advice is here to help

Do you need professional advice, but don't know who to trust? Do you feel overwhelmed by the complex and technical world of information technology? Wiser Technology Advice is here to help with wise, independent advice on planning and procuring technology.

If you’d like to talk further about anything I’ve written about, get in contact with me today, I’m always happy to meet and have a chat over a coffee.

Further Reading

Why having too many systems can cause you a problem, Jeremy Tilson 8 August 2018, available at https://alphafirst.net/questions/why-having-too-many-systems-can-cause-you-a-problem/

ACIITC Care IT Report, Aged Care Industry Information Technology Council 13November 2020, available at http://www.aciitc.com.au/care-it-survey/

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