Ask The Expert: Simple, yet transformational learnings from the global shutdown

Jonathan Anderson, Managing Director of Business Software at razorblue urges business leaders to look ahead and ask the most important question of all: What next? In an economy that is contracting, it is vital that businesses to become more efficient and retain market share. Adopting technologies and embracing change unlocks potential to not only survive but thrive.

Whilst politicians continue to toy with the economy, debating future restrictions and lockdowns, business leaders must address the most important question: What next?

Cast your mind back to this time last year, murmurs from across the world of an unknown disease that we all came to know as Covid-19 – a phrase we are now all too accustomed with.

The year of 2020 saw 2 years’ worth of digital transformation in the space of 2 months.

While this sounds impressive, it must be noted that many of these digital solutions were designed and implemented to be an interim, quick-fix solution. After all, this Covid-19 surely was not going to last more than a couple of months…

Fast forward to February 2021, as the nation counts down the remaining weeks of lockdown and businesses prepare for the all-singing, all-dancing “new normal” we have been promised.

I challenge you to readdress those quick-fix solutions and plan for not only a sustainable, but a resilient future. Now, let us decipher “what next?”

In an economy that is contracting, it is ever more important for businesses to become more efficient and retain market share.

Data-led decisions

One year on, business leaders should now be asking themselves “do we have a true understanding of our suppliers, operations, people, customers and marketplace?”

Such understanding derives from data.

As a starting point, the data you should focus on is that which can be generated and analysed in your day-to-day business operations. This is existing information about your customers, operations, people, suppliers and supply chain. Assuming that your business is already generating this data, it is likely that the accuracy and efficiency of data capture can be improved.

To use this data effectively, it must offer a single version of the truth through an undisputed source of performance data. Critically, this data should be presented in a way that not only supports informed decision making, but also provides immediate feedback and analysis opportunities.

What are these analysis opportunities?

Take your finance department as an example – one of the main challenges they face are the inefficiencies around collating and analysing large datasets. The amount of resource and time needed to transform this data into deep business insights and reports is colossal and often unnecessary.

Many companies have data stored in numerous, disparate systems, creating challenges to deliver accurate, on-demand management information.

This is where business intelligence tools such as, Power BI come in. Compiling and automating relevant information into a tailored interface, enabling users to efficiently extract information and make data-driven predictions based on real-time statistics.

These scalable business intelligence tools help you gain a deeper understanding of your data, as well as ensuring you get the most out of any big data investments. Insights can be shared and promoted across your organisation, whilst maintaining accuracy, consistency and security.

Streamline your processes

Many businesses responded to the economic uncertainties and huge drop in demand by reducing their workforce. Whether your business made redundancies or not, one question remains: can your business thrive with reduced resource?

Crucially, businesses now need to assess whether workloads can be more efficiently managed, and which of their processes can be streamlined through automation. This in turn will not only reduce overheads but increase business resilience.

Frustrations around manual data entry, the inability to find what is needed, time spent tracking down data inconsistencies, and in some cases the hours spent manually compiling reports are far from uncommon. Whilst good-intentioned, workarounds such as Excel spreadsheets demand far too much of our precious time and resource.

Employees can quickly become absorbed in high-touch manual steps to data entry that despite best efforts often result in incomplete data and ultimately impair productivity.

Automating processes produces results immediately and eliminates any risk of human error. Importantly, replacing mundane and time-consuming tasks, keeping overheads down and freeing up resource to focus on the all-important relationship-building or creative tasks that humans are designed for.

Consolidating disjointed processes and systems can be achieved easily through products such as Microsoft Dynamics 365.

Through its modular approach, Dynamics 365 allows businesses to take only the applications that are most appropriate and suitable to them and their existing systems.  This is an industry-leading product suitable for all business types regardless of size or sector.

When implemented correctly, Dynamics guarantees improved efficiencies and according to multiple recent reports, for every £1 spent, you will see a minimum return of £7.

Implementing a solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 will help your organisation improve data access and automate processes, enabling your employees to spend more time strengthening existing customer relationships and pursuing new ones.

Embracing change

Whether through business intelligence tools, automation, or a mixture of the two, such digitalisation will provide sustainable solutions and crucially improve efficiencies. It is fair to assume that the marketplace is only going to get more competitive and it is organisations who embrace change and build resilience into their operations, that will not only survive but thrive.