Top 7 Mistakes That Cause My Customers Problems

Get your IT right, and you have an efficient team, a superior customer experience and an improved profit per person. Get it wrong…

So, in the hope of avoiding the latter, here are a few things you should probably avoid.

7 – Unreasonable Expectation

If you and your team are expecting miracles, you’re going to be disappointed, frustrated and lack engagement. If you’re expecting that it won’t work, then it almost certainly won’t. Both result in a failure and inefficiency.

So don’t be like Alan, a regional manager I used to work with, who had such a dim view of IT that he rarely switched his PC on.

Instead, be realistic about what your systems can achieve. Invest time in understanding their scope and what they’re designed to do. You’ll enjoy them so much more, and believe it or not, happy workers are up to 12% more productive.

6 – Poor Training

Uneducated users are inefficient. They make mistakes, become frustrated, and impact other people’s time because they need help. Worst, they greatly increase the risk of a poor customer experience.

It’s just like when you talk to a call centre and the voice at the other end says, “I don’t understand this. Can I just put you hold for moment while I talk to my supervisor?”

The call takes longer and certainly doesn’t inspire confidence in the organization.

Try enhancing your in-house training and appoint evangelists to mentor, encourage and continually develop your team.

5 – Failing to Engage With and Promote New Systems

All systems take time to bed in, but if you don’t actively encourage adoption, you risk the new tool being sidelined or ignored. This is a double whammy. You’ve spent the money and the same inefficiencies will still exist.

I delivered a graphical information system for the regional managers, including Alan. He was determined to ignore it, but we kept encouraging him until he finally got on board and became our most ardent supporter.

Your training evangelists will help here. Their enthusiasm will be infectious, and no one will want to miss out on something that will make their day so much easier.

4 – Setting and Forgetting

CEOs and SME owners have a lot to manage, and they continually adjust the business for changes in the market, legislation, staffing issues, maintenance requirements and many other factors.

Ignore these, and the business suffers.

Ignore your IT, and you get the same result.

So don’t be like a certain iconic Australian brand I deal with that still relies on the systems they implemented 20 years ago. They’ve just discovered that they need to completely revamp just about every facet of their IT because it’s unable to support them as they grow.

A stitch in time still saves nine, even in the modern technological world, so review your systems annually to ensure they’re fit for purpose and well maintained.

3 – No Strategy or the Wrong Strategy

What’s worse than letting your systems slowly disintegrate?

Having the wrong systems in the first place.

Having no effective strategy, not aligning your IT to your business requirements and not planning are guaranteed ways to increase your costs and reduce efficiency.

So don’t be like the large financial institution that purchased a major piece of software from the US. Being American, the system doesn’t do some accounting activities that are mandatory in Australia. They now employ 80 people in India to produce the information for them.

Instead, take the time to plan your direction and understand your needs now and in to the future, long before you sign a purchase order.

2 – Lack of Investment

SMEs should be investing 4-5% of gross on IT each year, yet many don’t, and it’s this failure that nearly always underpins the 5 previous mistakes.

Limited investment in IT assets results in slow machines, user inefficiency, disengagement and low morale, data compliance issues, cybersecurity implications, ineffective management information and an inferior customer experience.

The CEO of the iconic Australian brand is finding out the hard way that his lack of investment now means he needs to play catch up to compete in a tight market.

Instead, treat your IT the same way you’d manage fleet vehicles or store fronts. Regular investment ensures you get the best possible value in the long run.

1 – Thinking of IT as a Cost

This is like a disease. It slowly incapacitates its host by strangling investment and innovation, leaving the workforce debilitated and inefficient, and unable to provide anything other than an inferior customer experience.

So don’t be like the CEO of the iconic brand. He thought that new ERP software was just money down the drain because his existing systems were good enough. He’s now discovering that it’s cost him in terms of efficiency, that it doesn’t provide the necessary information, and has severely impacted the customer experience.

Instead, take a moment to understand that it’s 2018 and just about every business is now a DIGITAL BUSINESS and you should be embracing the opportunities that modern technology presents.

Your IT assets should provide a Foundation for your business and Assistance for your team. They should Simplify your activities, help you Engage with your customers and become a pillar of Strength over time.

If you want efficiency, a superior customer experience and to maximise your profit per person, you must invest in IT.


Today’s Top Takeaway

Your competitors are embracing the opportunities that the digital world is offering. Don’t let them leave you behind!


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Is “The Cloud” The Right Choice For SMEs?

Adoption of cloud technologies can certainly have benefits for SMEs. Flexibility, scale on demand and having someone else shoulder many of your burdens are certainly attractive offerings, but as ever, we’re well advised to cross our Ts and dot our Is before charging ahead.

Outsourcing of IT responsibilities in one form or another has been a thing for many years now and you won’t be surprised to find that a quick search will turn up countless horror stories linked to dubious business practices, questionable project scopes and huge amounts of time and money being wasted.

Not surprisingly, the cloud is similarly blighted, and there is plenty for SMEs to worry about when it comes to adopting something as a service (XaaS).

For example, what would you do if you cloud provider declared bankruptcy?

Of course, such disasters represent a tiny fraction of all cloud business, and devastating as they might be for the parties involved, we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The cloud is here to stay at least for the foreseeable future and may still represent a great opportunity for your business.

This short article discusses some of the misconceptions of the cloud and provides a 5 point checklist for those dipping their toe in to the murky waters of service based offerings.

And as ever, I’ll urge you to take a step back and assess your requirements rigorously and pragmatically; weigh up the pros and cons; and talk to the relevant experts before committing.

Most importantly, ensure you’re adopting the solution because your IT and business strategies warrant it and that it’s going to help you deliver an improved profit per person.


Today’s Top Takeaway

All that glitters ain’t gold, but it could be! Only good old fashioned analysis and hard work will provide an answer.


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Affordable Digital Transformation

GRRRR!!!

I’ve been annoyed all week, and it’s this perspective on what I’ll refer to as the bleeding edge of modern day web development that has really ground my gears

So I’m going to get it off my chest.

I wrote the other day that SMEs are effectively being priced out digital transformation because software developers insist on using these low level, low productivity tools that take far too long to do a relatively simple job.

Now, there may be exceptional cases, but I’m going to state quite categorically that the vast majority of SME requirements, when it comes to apps, customer portals and other such things, are really much of a muchness.

Nearly all business apps focus on making back office functionality available to customers or employees, facilitating their interaction with the business. They might be related to ordering, access to account information, task lists and anything else you can imagine, but they are all about smoothing the way, empowering the user and reducing the need for human interaction.

Choose the Right Tool

Given that there is such similarity, you’d think that someone would have made this job simpler by now, and of course, you’d be right. There are many tools dedicated to rising above the unnecessary complexity of low level coding and it’s these that SMEs should be looking for when engaging software developers.

After all, if you wanted to dig a big hole, you’d get a digger. You wouldn’t hire 10 guys with shovels.

So why would you employ 5 programmers to do a job that 2 could do using superior tools.

A look at my LinkedIn profile will show that I have a bias with regards to which tool you should use, but in truth, I really don’t care. My interest, as your should be, is that you get the biggest bang for your buck and that you maximise your profit per person.

Any of the high level tools will do that.


Today’s Top Takeaway

Understand your requirements and then find the appropriate tool. Don’t let trends and the flavour of the day guide you down the wrong path.


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Why SMEs Struggle With Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation presents SMEs with an extraordinary opportunity to differentiate themselves in today’s increasingly crowded market place, and to offer an excellent customer experience via an app or online experience.

As ever though, theory and practice are not quite in sync, and Telstra’s 2018 small business intelligence report highlights the gulf between customer expectation and the reality of small business offerings.

As ever, we should ask why, and there’s no surprise that the sheer cost of developing an app or highly functional website is seen as a significant barrier. A quick search on Google will supply a range of figures, but the consensus seems to be that you need a minimum of $100,000 and to be prepared to wait for 6 months or more.

Once more we should ask why. Why is it that relatively simple bits of software take so long and cost so much?

I think this perspective on what I’ll refer to as the bleeding edge of modern day web development may well give us a clue.

It’s enough to make this veteran of the low code, high productivity software world cry.

 


Today’s Top Takeaway

Better profit per person comes when you and your team are solving your business issues rather than the focusing on technology.


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Profit Per Person

Smile….PLEASE!

As I’m someone who might loosely refer to himself as an IT guy, you’d be excused for thinking that I spend a disproportionate amount of time writing about marketing and business related things like Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

But then why wouldn’t I?

The forces that drive your IT strategy are largely the same as those that drive your marketing and business strategy, and to think otherwise is at best naive and at worst downright destructive, so we’re probably well advised not to do it.

So, when your IT representatives come, cap in hand, begging for resources, not only should you be asking them what problem they’re solving, but how the solution fits in to your overall view of the world.

Projects that offer tools for the customer, or those that provide accurate management information and so on are easy justifications for finding a little wiggle room in a budget, but when it comes down to making employees happier and more efficient, it often seems to be that bit harder to scrape the funds together.

BUT!!!…if you look at business through a Profit Per Person (PPP) lens, you might see the same opportunity in a somewhat different light.

A Quick Aside

So that you’re all familiar with this concept, here’s McKinsey quick overview of the subject and why it’s an interesting and important metric for the modern executive.

Profit Per Person gives us a completely different perspective. Rather than looking at a business based on the return it’s getting from its capital, it gives us a sense of how well our human assets are performing.

Of course, when it comes to PPP, not all people are equal. The maintenance and cleaning staff without whom a business would very quickly disintegrate are going to be viewed as a cost, while the performance and profitability of sales guys or chargeable consultants may well be measured in the finest of details.

Between these two extremes are all the other employees whose value is hard to measure directly, but without whom there would be no business, and this is really where the rubber meets the road.

Keeping the Talent Happy

Sadly for most SMEs, there simply isn’t the money available to allow their staff to work in the playground like environments and enjoy the seemingly unlimited IT budgets that you see at the big end of town. For most, a fruit basket and Friday afternoon bubbles and beer are about as far as it goes.

Not that these should be under valued though. There is a distinct correlation between employee happiness and productivity. Warwick University reported that happy workers are ~12% more productive,

“…management…should strive to make their workplaces emotionally healthy for their workforce” – Dr Eugenio Proto

and Shawn Anchor, author of The Happiness Advantage, tells us that success doesn’t drive happiness. As he explains in his TEDx talk, it’s the other way round: Happiness drives success.

A Waste of Your Time

So what does this have to do with IT?!

Consider this. You give your employees a plush office chair and a well positioned desk in a well lit and comfortable environment. You provide a coffee machine, kitchen facilities and the aforementioned fruit and booze. And then you hope that they’ll be motivated, happy and productive. It’s a simplistic view, but you get the idea. Then you park them in front of ageing PCs accessing servers and systems that are often old, slow, difficult to navigate and barely integrated. While these are perhaps technically fit for purpose, a relatively pleasurable work experience is instead frustrating and inefficient, and at what cost?

A typical office worker spends about 40 minutes a week helping colleagues deal with IT issues. Combine that with the inefficiencies delivered by the use of technology that is often slower and less reliable than their home PC, and you can begin to see that staff performance, efficiency and happiness is being significantly impaired.

This can’t be good from a Profit per Person perspective.

A Waste of the Customer’s Time

Worse of course is when the systems are customer facing.

Doubtless you’ve all had the experience on the phone to a call centre when you’re told that the system is slow today, or it won’t let a change be made for some reason. Or perhaps you’re in a store, trying to pay and the loyalty card system is chugging along, or seemingly too hard to use. Or a website is slower than it should be, or loses information when the Back button is pressed.

Seriously, there’s no good reason for this in the modern world.

Poor service, wherever it occurs in the buyer journey, is going to result in a diminished brand value and lost sales, and 55% of people have decided not to buy because of it.

Time is Money

If you work in the big end of town, an extra body and salary here or there probably doesn’t really matter. But an SME turning over $10 million with 50 employees will be keeping a close watch on staffing levels costs. Each one will cost about $100K on average, and that’s 1% of the gross.

With a profit of $2,000,000 per year, this particular fictitious SME is making a comfortable $40K per person. But if staff numbers drop through natural wastage to 45 and revenue remains the same thanks to system optimization and efficiency improvements, profit rises by a cool half million and PPP jumps to over $55.5K, and that’s without even considering the potential for improved prospect and customer outcomes.

Money invested in employee salaries only accounts for their contribution to the profit of a business for one year. The same money invested in IT assets that drive efficiency, improve usability and employee satisfaction, will minimize wage costs and keep delivering value year on year, helping to keep the Profit per Person as high as possible.


Today’s Top Takeaway

If you skimp on IT investment, every dollar saved is a dollar wasted.


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Implementation is EVERYTHING

The modern business and IT worlds are great. Seriously. I love this stuff!

The simplicity with which I can get my hands on a vast array of information, data, opinions, snake oil, and cat videos, is simply breathtaking.  It doesn’t matter what whacky nonsense I go looking for, it’s out there…somewhere. Humanity in its infinite wisdom, or often lack thereof, has nearly always already spent the time delving into the nitty gritty, researching, collating, and publishing its findings for all to see on the Internet.

So, when I was asked the other day whether G Suite or Office 365 was better value, you might reasonably think that I’d have spent a few minutes on Bing or Google digging up a plethora of information and comparative feature assessments.

Nope!

Stability

I said Office 365 almost before the question was complete. Why? Because in this particular case, I already knew that the users were familiar with Office and that they’re basically vanilla users with no particularly exceptional requirements.

So, why rock the boat.

There’s no reason to change and any potential saving in dollar value for one vs the other would be largely irrelevant.

Meh!

Had the same person asked about which anti-virus product, or which CRM, or which whatever, I’d have told them to just pick one and move on.

What?! How can I, a proper, grown up, serious, mostly, IT professional, be so blase about expensive decision making? How dare I be so cavalier with other people’s money?

The answer is simple. Unless you’re different; unless you have certain requirements; unless you need a very specific set of functionality, and most of you don’t, you’re a vanilla user and the main players in the market have you covered. You’re their bread and butter, and they and thousands of businesses just like are you are getting along just fine all over the world.

But What About the Cost?!

More importantly, and speaking quite frankly, I don’t really care about the price of a tool that much.

Yes, from a retail pricing point of view, there are differences, but in the scheme of things, so what if one is 20% more than another?

Yeah, yeah, I know, value for money and all that. Look after the pennies and so on.

But it’s almost ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT!

A few grand here or there pales into insignificance compared to the total cost of ownership, and as I’ve written before and will doubtless write again, what you spend on IT is not what it costs.

When you buy a software solution, you’re buying an asset and the purpose of an asset is to generate value for your business today and tomorrow. So the only things that are really relevant are how and when you start realising that value to improve your profit per person.

As some said to me recently, IMPLEMENTATION IS EVERYTHING!


Today’s Top Takeaway

Team + Tech + Training = Triumph


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It’s STILL all about the people

A recent Tech Republic Survey looked at so called “smart technology”, such as digital assistants, machine learning algorithms and video conferencing, assessing its usage, efficacy and how the respondents felt the technology had fared against expectation.

Only one about a quarter (24%) said their expectation had been met, while 35% said at least one product was a disappointment.

As ever though, it’s not the main questions that I find interesting. It’s the little tidbits that often get relegated to the end of a report that I find most instructive, and this survey did not disappoint.

Once more, simply asking why demonstrated that businesses continue to waste time and money when adopting technology solutions because they fail to build on user skills, instead assuming or hoping that the technology will somehow just kinda work.

By the Numbers

Just under three quarters of those who replied are currently using some kind of smart tech in their daily life and most (85%) think it has either does, or has the potential to benefit them in some way. However, when it came to the actual effect, only a small majority thought that these technologies actually improved their existence.

For example, more people thought that video conferencing made their job easier than those who said it said it made it harder, but not by that much.

Now this is hardly a glowing endorsement, but one that we shouldn’t really be that surprised by.

A great deal of smart technology is still very new, and there will be teething problems, particularly with regards to anything that’s voice activated, if my continual battles with Siri are anything to go by. She can set a timer very well, and is apparently an expert on when the clocks change, but playing the song I want to listen to while I’m driving is apparently all too difficult.

Technology vs People

While Siri and the capabilities of the profusion of new gadgets will of course improve, it’s how we interact with them that will make the biggest difference.

As I’ve written before, new applications can only be effective if we invest in the users, and smart technology is no different. Unless you train your team, set reasonable expectation levels and encourage active engagement, you’re just wasting time, money and opportunity.

So, what were the three main reasons stated as to why smart technology didn’t live up to expectation?

  • Too difficult to use
  • Didn’t function as expected
  • Not fully supported by the company

How disappointingly predictable.


Today’s Top Takeaway

Smart technology still requires smart use to maximise its value.


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Do You Have an IoT Strategy?

In my last post, I reported that only 20% of businesses have a business plan, and that it seems quite likely that most businesses won’t have anything remotely resembling a coherent IT strategy.

It will then, be very interesting to see the results of this survey from Tech Pro Research about how businesses are planning to get involved in the Internet of Things.

According to Wikipedia, there are currently some 8.4 billlion devices out there and this is estimated to balloon to 30 billion by 2020. That’s a lot of devices, producing a prodigious amount of data, and given that knowledge is power, this technology presents a considerable opportunity for those who make good use of it.

But without much by way of a business plan and the consequently minimal alignment of their IT systems, it’s hard to envisage how SMEs are going to reap the potential rewards, or implement solutions that are anything other than the typical whack-a-mole approach.


Today’s Top Takeaway

The technology is available. What do you want to do with it?


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