I’ve spent the past two blog posts talking about digital maturity and technological convergence. Both are essential to the small business in competing in today’s business world. The truth is that the democratization of software and the establishment of open source environments have enabled technology convergence to happen at all. It can create a competitive advantage or disadvantage for the small business depending on how it’s handled internally. That’s where digital maturity and the role your employees play is a huge part of the success of the company. If growth is what you seek, pay attention to the rest of this blog post.
In our case study, the discovery phase of looking at the technology stack is substantially complete. In my next blog post, I’ll provide a configuration of sorts that includes a few more pieces I stumbled across. But, suffice it to say, they are not connected by manual data transfers if at all. However, the harder part of the discovery is that the people using the tools are not digitally aware. The first stage of maturity is awareness.
We could easily chase this rabbit down a deep, dark hole but we won’t. The short version of what this means to the small business is that your employees have to understand and accept that being digitally connected to the business world is a benefit to them and being digitally automated in the workplace is both a time-saving activity and a means to make their job easier. In our case study, this is the first nut we have to crack in getting the employees onboard and bought into the effort. Right now, their file data is spread to the four winds without any metadata descriptors or ability to ensure current versions of critical documents are discoverable. There is only a primary data tier for storage and no secondary backup or Cloud archiving. To make this happen smoothly, the concept of change management must be introduced and accepted. Yeah, everyone knows what change means but unfortunately, few accept it straight out of the box. You have to sell it.
I won’t dive into the theory behind this because you already know what I’m talking about. The image explains it all. Funny what one little word can do to change the meaning. Everyone wants change but the nimby (not in my backyard) effect plays a large role in the process.
The best way to illustrate the difficulty of enacting change is to synopsize a conversation I had today with one of the senior managers of the company from our case study. The moral of the lesson here is that change is only effective if it’s implemented enterprise-wide and is championed from the top as a fundamental part of the corporate culture.
Q. What’s the most pressing thing that needs to change for you to do your job more effectively?
A. The boss (owner) has to be more reliable and responsive when I tell him a client needs something done that only he (the owner) can do. Typically, I’ll ask him to take care of it on a Monday and by Friday of that week, I’ll have to remind him to get it done and he says he’ll do it on Monday … and so it goes.
Q. Why do you think that happens?
A. Well, he’s got too many things on his plate and shifting priorities get in the way.
Q. So, what’s the answer? What has to change?
A. We need to replace the boss with someone more reliable and responsive and customer focused.
Q. Why haven’t we done that?
A. Well, the boss says he wants to keep control of that because he knows the customer best and they expect him to make the calls on how the company does business with them.
This is not an uncommon event in many small businesses. The owners response when I questioned him was that he won’t change because that’s what has worked for him for the past five years the company has been in business. The kicker is that it actually isn’t working for him. If we take a look at the CRM data and match it up with the Quickbooks accounts receivable data, we will see a growing trend of invoices not paid that exceed 60 days. Guess which accounts are going into arrears. Yep, the customers that aren’t getting the service they are demanding. They withhold payment until their issues are addressed.
Analytics is a cornerstone of digital awareness. What good is it to collect data that you never use to gain customer insight? The problem here is not the software tools. It’s the failure of people to use them in the right way to understand why you’re business isn’t growing and why cash flow is always lagging behind in being able to pay the bills.
If the company is going to grow, it’s because you recognize that change in how the employees do things is part of the growth process and you as the person at the top must champion the need to change and allow it to happen. Digital maturity produces the hard evidence that will push you off the top of the mountain to cause you to empower your people to make the changes necessary to grow as you planned.