In the digital age it’s hard to find a job that doesn’t involve the use of some software, but how many solutions is too many?
When I speak to operations managers, whether they work in hospitality, retail or facilities, the feedback is the same: they are using way too many systems and it’s costing them large chunks of their time.
If you’re very unlucky, you may have found yourself surrounded by these in your daily job, as many I’ve spoken to have.
What’s the point?
Unfortunately, this situation arises naturally from short-term thinking and the immediate needs of your business.
Point solutions build up over time, until you have a complex web of different systems to manage, which all handle data differently and either don’t or can’t be integrated with each other.
These systems are not necessarily bad - you might not feel particularly hostile towards something that ‘just works’.
But a myriad of disparate systems makes visibility of your data non-existent and reporting onerous. Worse still, the time you thought you’d save by ‘going digital’ is used up (and more), fiddling, trying to marry together different datasets.
You’re not helping
One colleague I spoke to, an operations manager in the catering industry, reported that he had to regularly use 15 different systems to manage just one site.
Excel spreadsheets for logbooks, point solutions for payroll and Time and Attendance, records for food deliveries, all disconnected.
It’s a nightmare scenario for any manager, and it means that reports must be cobbled together manually.
The amount of time and effort it takes to correctly collate this data far outweighs the convenience and speed of using any software in the first place.
Making the change
The more cynical readers are already thinking that I’m about to tell you to chuck everything out, baby and bathwater included, go all in on a new system and find out it was terrible idea six months later.
Once you’ve had a bad experience, you would be forgiven for thinking that there isn’t anything better on the market.
My advice is this: approach the market with an open mind. Look to replace just one or two problems at first, BUT with a system that has the scope to expand – otherwise you’re going to go back to square one.
Testing a new tool gives you the chance to explore how effective it might be in a different area of the business.
Modern software should have integration capabilities but it’s worth doing your research: key considerations should include flexibility, configurability and scope.
Please expand on that
Once you’ve bedded in your new tool, and it hasn’t gone horribly wrong, you can look to add a new process in – maybe it’s time to retire that musty spreadsheet you’ve been using for staff attendance.
Steadily growing a solution and replacing your legacy systems process by process is achievable, practical and reduces the risks often attached to large digital projects.
It’s also far cheaper, because you’re expanding the use and cost gradually, rather than all at once.
Data, data, data
Let’s be honest, this kind of investment will take time, resources and a fair amount of patience.
But can you afford to put it off?
Reducing the number of systems you use doesn’t just make your life easier, it makes reporting far less complicated, it gives you visibility of what’s going on and crucially, it saves you time without compromising thoroughness.
It won’t happen overnight, but this isn’t just an opportunity for streamlining your tech stack. Knocking down those old silos and making your operations data visible will help you to make better business decisions and work out your pain points.
In short, you're getting value from the data you already have.