Day in, day out, we help businesses yearning for the promise of greater productivity through technology. Software after software hit the market with the promise of improving a function of your business with grace and fluidity. Billions are spent every year chasing the ever-better mousetrap. But in the SMB space, it seems that the hopes and aspirations of breakthrough, game-changing technology are always just a little bit out of reach. And it’s small and midsize businesses that perhaps stand to gain the most from leveraging technology. So how does a company truly leverage technology in their business?
Effectively leveraging technology means taking the pieces of your operation, that every one of your competitors probably also does, and automating the h*ll out of them, until you can scale your business with equal or better outputs than anyone in your industry. As one of our business mentors Jim Grew told us: take the easiest third of what you do and automate it.
Do you create quotes for jobs all day?
Does your business process PO’s constantly?
Are there 10 different spreadsheets that you use and share in your business to track critical business functions that overlap but aren’t “managed” by software?
Do you routinely pay humans to analyze spreadsheets and software for multiple sources to draw relatively simple conclusions or reconcile fairly simple records?
The answer to these problems is middleware. Software written to sit in between multiple data silos and cross-pollinate or aggregate information. It may cost less than you think to create middleware, but in order to justify it, spend some time observing or considering the following points:
Learn your metrics
Every business has levers. If you pull the marketing lever, more business comes in the door and you have to pull the production lever at the right time to continue producing widgets on time. These tea leaves are critical to understanding the inputs and outputs of your business and can often be distilled (with lots of thought and consideration) into a few key numbers to watch. Middleware is designed to improve operational throughput, by understanding these numbers and their impact, we may be able to draw clearer conclusions about how middleware will impact your levers.
Don’t be afraid to think creatively. Have you ever fantasized about a system for your business that gave you exactly what you need at your fingertips, exactly when you needed it? That’s a great place to start. The companies who dared to use ambitious technology to rewrite the rules in a stagnant industry: Uber, eBay and AirBNB, have leaped past their competitors and been able to scale very rapidly. It seems so obvious in retrospect, but it took some ambitious dreaming to actualize.
Target labor as your justification
Rationalizing the investment can be challenging for businesses. It’s easy to compare the costs of one piece of software on the market against another. But when you are talking about a special project that bridges existing software, how do you calculate ROI? The biggest competition to middleware solutions is the status quo, allowing employees to continue spending time inefficiently because it’s predictable and safe. Be brave and look at your payroll. If you grow by 50%, will your payroll increase by 50%? What if it only needed to increase by 10%?
If you’re like most other small businesses, struggling with the most elegant and efficient way to grow. Talk with Upward (Portland’s best SMB IT service provider) about a middleware solution that will create true leverage for your business through technology.