The nature of my work is to solve problems for businesses that are growing, either fast or moderately (nobody has asked me to help them get smaller). They have realized that they need to change something to continue or even accelerate the growth.
Staff and executives are focused on their activity (their business) and clearly doing at least some things right. The right way to approach this is to first understand what are the parts that are working and then, come up with a solution that speeds up and enhances the already-existing business process.
This is about a company that sells specialty clothing items that are in high demand during the holiday season. It is a fast growing company that started out selling their goods at roadside tent pavillions, sales had exploded and they had moved into a variety of venues.What they were trying to do was manage an ever-growing list of products, each with variations of size and color, on a series of Excel spreadsheets. The sales outlets ranged from physical stores to mall kiosks and each outlet had its own line of offerings, depending on size of venue.
They had been offered an elaborate point of sale system that, in theory, would capture sales transactions at the point of sale and consolidate the results to a central office. The point of sale system was simply too much, requiring more than one year to justify the expense, and, (here is where past experience is valuable) there was just no way seasonal workers, some with no supervision, could perform their existing duties of selling product and managing the new processes required.
The only solution that made sense finally was a hybrid system: Use the old methods on the outer fringe locations and the centrally connected point-of-sale system at the bigger locations that had easy network access. For the outer locations, including standalone kiosks, the home office would send, by email, an updated inventory spreadsheet and price list to each remote operator prior to business hours. The salesperson would take a hard copy with him to the site. Throughout the day sales data would be noted manually on the printout. At the end of the day the salesperson would enter the updates to the spreadsheet, then email it back to the office. All the salesperson needed to handle was to ensure stock levels and receipts for the day matched,
The skill requirements for the salespeople were minimal: basic editing and email. Since there was high turnover with the seasonal salespeople, it was beneficial to keep technology training to a minimum. And the total, end to end cost of upgrading systems across the company were considerably less by limiting the rollout of the integrated point of sale/inventory management software to only a few high-volume sales outlets.
The final evaluation of upgrading your business process should not be taken on how cutting-edge your new system is – the cost of that may be shocking. The real value is taken on how much more business can you handle for the least cost.