In the world of sports, just remaining competitive (let alone being the best in a particular field) requires several areas of focus. One of which is the continuous evaluation of past performance and the identification of what could have been done better. It is this attention to detail and focus on continuous improvement that separates those that compete at a higher level from the rest of the pack. To be competitive in the contracting world requires a similar commitment to identify areas where business operations can be improved.
For many businesses, the opportunity for improvement is ultimately related to data; either finding a way to get it entered more accurately/efficiently into a system or getting it back out again in a reliable format for making decisions. All too often, contractors find themselves managing a lot of data outside of their core systems in applications like Excel because they cannot get their core systems to function the way their business runs.
This can often lead contractors to look for an alternate software system. However, in many cases, the issue is not the software, it is the business process that the software is trying to support. Before a company starts acquiring new tech solutions, it is sometimes appropriate to take a hard look at the existing processes and then decide which of them need to be improved or changed before technology is then applied. Even if the different systems in place are working perfectly, there is still an opportunity to look at the way individuals and teams perform certain activities to find ways in which they can be improved. As in the sports example, this is often referred to as the Continuous Improvement Model or Process and has been adopted by many industries with remarkable success. Although Kaizan, Lean and Six Sigma methodologies have evolved to address this need, you do not need certification in these methodologies to get started.
Software systems are constantly being updated with new features and capabilities, providing opportunities for process improvement that many contractors never act on. Similarly, business processes may be adjusted without ever making the necessary configuration changes to the software that is affected by those changes. Think about your ERP (Job Cost and Accounting system) implementation. How long ago was it initially implemented and when was the last time it was reconfigured to support recent changes in the business? If business systems and processes get out of alignment, that is when inefficiency, risk and end user frustration set in. Evaluating how processes can be improved on an ongoing basis is an important part of regular operations as it ensures that areas of friction caused by too many, duplicate, or incorrect steps are reduced or removed. As stated before, this review process must be carried out in conjunction with evaluation of the systems in which those process improvements are going to be implemented so that neither one gets out of sync. To do so risks reintroducing the very inefficiencies an organization is trying to remove.
Process evaluations can focus on multiple small, continuous, incremental changes with minimal disruption to the organization, or large significant changes that affect a broader organizational group yet supplies greater benefits. What is often overlooked is that not making a change can be more disruptive the long term.
So, before you embark on your next software purchase, make sure get help evaluating your internal processes first.