Increasingly as we are talking with business owners about the problems they are facing, one of the biggest trends I see is that systems that are bought an implemented in isolation work very well for the single functions for which they were purchased, often the work arounds and double handling required to make them play well with others means that the hidden costs often outweigh the benefits.
Software systems, in particular, are prone to this. Many proprietary systems will integrate in some fashion, but this may often be limited to other products from the same vendor or to a very rigid set of rules that often don’t lend themselves to the environments in which they are to be implemented. Assumptions on expanded functionality in this space or solutions that can be tailored to meet the individual needs can also lead down the track to finding yourself in the position where someone has to copy and paste information from one system to another in order to achieve tasks that add little or no value to the overall business.
When selecting a software vendor choosing a partner that has a philosophy of using open and modern communication methods can and will often alleviate these issues. Being able to have your web ordering system talk to your production software to automatically create work tickets and production planning, which can then talk to your manufacturing equipment to alleviate the need for operators to transpose information from either a screen or piece of paper to a device will reduce touchpoints, remove points in the factory where errors can (and do) occur as well as providing the highest speed to serve the customer.
Having multiple sources of truth within any data driven environment can and will also lead to miscommunication and misinformation permeating the organisation. If, for example, your inventory system cannot talk to your production system, then the complete picture of things like materials on hand or factory capabilities will be inaccurate. Equally, if your customer contact information is not connected to your quoting system then determining the right people to receive information will over time become a mess. Over time these pieces of data, if not stored in an integrated environment, will become fragmented and inaccurate in all of the disparate systems they are stored in.
Select your software vendors carefully, considering the overall workflow you are looking to achieve, and make sure the integration points that you need to achieve the lower costs, faster time to serve, and complete picture of information within your business is possible. While some systems may look very attractive for the single functions for which they are built in the world where the average transaction dollar value is lower than ever having to handhold information via touch points that do not add value is a sure way to get things wrong, increase your costs and still be processing work while your competitors have already delivered the job and moved on to the next order.
Author Adrian Fleming