“Price Addiction” – small business owners share this common attribute. In the constant tussle of competing with the larger enterprises at a restrained budget, small businesses are hooked on getting software solutions at the most discounted rates. But does that generate value? Let’s find out –
The inclination over price has opened doors to many software vendors with substandard offerings. Harping upon ‘low price‘ in their marketing and sales pitches, these software vendors keep the cash registers rolling. But while these vendors get away with multiple such sales per quarter – what happens with the small businesses is a real mystery!!
In a recent survey, it got observed that 78% of small businesses possessed heterogeneous IT systems. These businesses were facing some of the most difficult challenges: dealing with enterprise competition, reducing operational costs, developing new products, providing fast service and offering omnichannel engagement to customers.
In spite of having several applications at work, their capabilities in response to these challenges were very low and delayed. Resultant of which, these SMBs were gradually falling on the wayside. While they couldn’t increase the market share, the existing market share which they had was also under risk.
So what led these small businesses to this critical plight?
Grappling with the challenge to expand operations ASAP, these small businesses avoided long-term perspective and instead looked for short-term revenue acceleration goals. In order to conserve and make best use of their limited finances, small business owners splurged on shiny gobbledygook gadgets and technologies that were cheap in cost and promised to resolve the next urgent and immediate issue.
So with time several cheaper software solutions got installed at different points in various functional areas. While the immediate problems got resolved sub-optimally, SMBs found themselves in a quagmire in the long-term.
These cheaper software solutions functioned in a standalone manner and failed to get integrated with each other. Consequent of which, SMBs faced the following problems:
1. Reduced Employee Productivity: Employees were bogged down with disjointed processes. They wasted hours on labor-intensive tasks such as re-entering information from one system to another. Data discrepancy became a major issue as employees made several errors while manually re-entering information into different systems. Due to this chances of critical decisions based on inaccurate information became inevitable.
2. No Real-time Visibility: Multiple standalone applications ensured that there was no automated data consolidation. Sales, Marketing and Customer Service managers – none could get an accurate view of business performance in a timely fashion. Either the managers had to assign their team members to spend hours on sourcing, extracting and analyzing data from different systems or had to make critical business decisions based on assumptions and gut instinct.
3. Disappointed Customers: Customer service got tremendously slow as employees had to juggle between multiple business software systems to understand each case history. Gradually this reflected on overall customer experience too. Continuous delays in getting support issues resolved minimized the satisfaction level of customers and put them in two minds about long-term association.
4. Increased IT Cost: These small businesses admitted of spending the maximum share of their capital on acquiring new versions of disparate software systems. Not to forget the additional money that went into the maintenance of these systems. Also, often the IT teams had to put in extra hours to make the different versions of each software work. Thus, valuable IT time got wasted while maintenance costs skyrocketed.
How can these Small Businesses come out of this quandary?
Shift of Mindset
Small business owners often work on a survival mode – concentrating on just the next urgent and immediate issue. This mindset needs to go out of the window and a more broad long-term mindset, needs to come into the picture. This will enable these businesses to grow, stay ahead of the competition and insure themselves against market disruption.
Quoting the words of Shampa Bagchi – ”Very often small businesses seem to be in a survival mode, more focused on putting out the next fire, rather than planning for the long-term business growth. This narrow focus on immediate and urgent challenges, rather than on important long-term growth opportunities, is a very real problem for small businesses, something that can put them in a rut and threaten their very survival in the long term.”
In fact, it is this limited focus on resolving just the immediate and urgent challenges, that compels SMBs to invest on multiple mediocre solutions over time and eventually get trapped in a software web. While these systems do handle short-term tactical needs but they hold the business back from growing in the long run.
Implementation of a Single Integrated Solution
Considering the fact that small businesses face resource constraints, it makes sense to opt for a single robust comprehensive business management solution than multiple cheaper disparate solutions that are average in quality.
What will be the benefits?
1. Complete Data Visibility: Real-time visibility which is impossible in a siloed software system gets realized here. With all the data streamlined and neatly indexed in one centralized system – anyone can access data from almost anywhere and make timely informed decisions.
Time waste on data extraction and integration from different sources – becomes a passé.
2. Increased Efficiency: These new-age integrated platforms offer business process automation functionality. It eliminates the necessary (but time-consuming) tasks associated with sales, marketing and customer service. Result: the team gets freed up from the tedious, repetitive behind-the-scenes work and can be redeployed to higher-value activities.
3. Time and Cost Savings: IT team does not have to spend its crucial hours to install, configure, maintain and integrate multiple systems. Software maintenance gets taken care by the vendors and the IT team is able to focus on other crucial areas of the operations.
4. Faster Growth: Implementation of a single integrated software system makes the whole business process flexible. Be it sales, marketing or customer service – SMBs are quick to observe the emerging trends in all these areas and embrace them in ways that improve performance.
Cost-cutting mentality is common to every small business. But while some act wisely and opt for a competitively priced integrated business management suite, others splurge unnecessarily on shiny gobbledygook gadgets and technologies, that eventually cost higher and do more damage than benefit to the business.
Given the right set of integrated business management platform combined with the right set of people, strategies and processes – small businesses can gain momentum and grow in their markets comfortably.