5 Criteria for Prioritizing Business Optimization Projects in the Digital Space

“Going digital” – the globally pervasive term for the vague process of improving elements of your business with the fruit of new technology, such as advanced cloud-based analytics and machine learning solutions. Wireless communication is common these days, while cheap sensors, mobile devices, and other hardware enable businesses to direct and process oceans of data, manage people and equipment remotely, and boost the efficiency of field service personnel.

Clearly, digital can reshape any aspect of modern enterprise. Consider QM, an iPad application that True Interaction built for Lifetime Brands. QM enables organizations to oversee and manage Quality Control Inspections in real time, regardless of where factories, product lots, or distribution points are located. QM conducts multiple inspection types, including factories, products, and social compliance, powered by SAP cloud data.

I’ve written before regarding the huge gains reaped by progressive businesses in the digital space. The race is on, but where should you start? What aspect of the business should come first? Sales? Customer Service? Logistics? Procurement? Planning? Production? More importantly, how can business leaders prioritize their company’s improvement in the digital space?

Evaluation Criteria

Obviously, companies should select the most relevant and useful “digital solution” that creates the most value and/or best addresses gaps in productivity or performance, but this isn’t always clearly indicated. I have gathered 5 criteria that any “digital solution” should be evaluated against in order to aid you in establishing the priority of what needs to be done:

1. Business Case

Every idea on the table for implementation should have a well-developed business case – a justification for the proposed project or undertaking on the basis of its expected commercial benefit – such as the potential boost in sales and decrease in costs or inventory, for example. Prioritize the opportunities that seem the most realistic, relevant, and financially rewarding.

2. Pain Points Addressed

Describe and list every pain point that each solution will address. Evaluate the respective pain points from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective.

3. Technological Feasibility

Assess the economic competitiveness of all of your proposed tech solutions by evaluating their implementation costs for improving a process, as compared to the costs incurred by the current technology.

4. Ease of Implementation

Some ideas may have potential to make a significant improvement to your business, however there may be associated roadblocks and hindrances, such as significant capital investment, or approval requirements from a board or external parties. In cases like this, the improvement cycle may be delayed, or the spirit of the implementers broken as the improvement activity becomes too difficult to implement. Likewise, if there are improvement opportunities which are easy to implement but don’t really make a difference, then team members may see the process as not providing much benefit, and once again could lose interest in the process.

5. Time to Impact

Some solutions have significant impact on your business as soon as the “flip is switched” – such as mobile productivity apps and cloud-based repositories. Other solutions may require a significant ramp-up time before their impact on your business is tangible. For example, certain Machine Learning algorithms require a considerable dataset in place before they become effective. It’s important to take this into consideration when evaluating your solution.

If you take the time to thoroughly evaluate all of your organization’s ideas and technology solutions across the same spectrum of criteria, you will find that prioritizing what needs to be done becomes much less of a headache. You will also reap other benefits as well, such as having the ammunition at hand to wrangle consensus from your organization’s key stakeholders on what the next best digital step will be. Good luck!

By Michael Davison


Is Your IT Department Ready for the Digital Age?

If you are smiling to yourself about the title of this post, and the quaint term “Digital Age,” and how it’s 2016 already, and the “Digital Age” has been upon us for years now, you may want to stack your SMB up against a few eye-opening metrics regarding the state of technology in small-to-medium businesses today.

Big data is upon us, and available to every enterprise, including small businesses – but it’s what you do with it that counts. The International Data Corporation (IDC) forecasts a 44-fold increase in data volumes between 2009 and 2020. Despite this cambrian explosion of data, SMBs still appear to be behind when it comes to their IT capability. IDC projects a 40% growth in global data per year vs. just 5% growth in global IT spending in the future; furthermore, the organization noted that a shocking 68% of companies do not have a stated Business Intelligence / Analytics Strategy, and 79% of SMBs still use manual integration such as manual Excel files, or custom code.

Companies are no longer suffering from a lack of data—they’re suffering from a lack of the right data. Business leaders need the right big data to effectively define the strategic direction of the enterprise. The current generation of software was designed for functionality, but the next generation must also be designed for analytics. ~ Accenture Business Technology Trends Report

Right now amongst progressive SMBs, the race is on to develop and realize a true digital business ecosphere. Progressive SMBs are 55% more likely to have fully integrated business applications. Where does your organization stand in this contest? IDC predicts that by 2017, the transfer of cloud, social and big data investments from IT to line-of-business budgets will require 60% of CIOs to focus the IT budget on business innovation and value. This metric jibes with the results from Accenture’s Technology Vision survey, polling more than 2,000 business and technology executives across nine countries and 10 industries. According to the survey, 62% of SMBs are currently investing in digital technologies, and 35 percent are comprehensively investing in digital as part of their overall business strategy. In a recent article, Laurie McCabe, Partner at tech industry research masterminds SMB Group, points out that that these progressive SMBs are well positioned to tap into new customer requirements, improve customer engagement and experience, and enter new markets. “As progressive SMBs move forward,” she notes, “they will continue to outpace their peers and reshape the SMB market.”

How will the market be reshaped? Accenture notes that 81 percent of companies believe that “in the future, industry boundaries will dramatically blur as platforms reshape industries into interconnected ecosystems”. Progressive SMBs that continue to invest in IT capability will reap tremendous gains; those that bring up the rear will be behind by orders of magnitude. Furthermore, being progressive leads directly to revenue: For instance, according to SMB Group, 75% of the Progressive medium businesses (who increased technology spending) anticipated revenue gains in 2012, compared to just 17% of medium businesses that decreased IT spending.

Naturally, some SMBs don’t have the budget or staff to “flip the switch” and implement a bottom-up overhaul of their entire business process to create a fully integrated digital solution. But that is OK. By working with a capable digital business enterprise development vendor, SMBs can commence an incremental, but still integrated approach to business management solutions. Companies can begin, for example, with a financials module, and then continue to add integrated modules as required and when able, to manage other functions such as manufacturing, distribution, project accounting, or sales and marketing, at their own pace. The important part is to get moving, and to take the time to honestly assess how your organization is using technology today.

True Interaction produces custom full-stack end-to-end custom secure and compliant technology solutions across web, desktop and mobile – integrating data sources from e-commerce, enterprise resource planning, customer service, document inventory management, spend, performance… whatever data your business requires. From legacy systems to open source, we can determine the most optimal means to achieve operational perfection, devising and implementing the right tech stack to fit your business. We routinely pull together disparate data sources, fuse together disconnected silos, and do exactly what it takes for organizations to operate with tight tolerances, making your business engine hum.

Are you ready for the Digital Age? For real, this time? Let’s go!

By Michael Davison