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Category Archives: small business

How to change your organization to innovate faster?


Picture of PhysicsFirst of all, I would like to thank you all for such an overwhelming response to my last blog. I haven’t yet responded to all of your emails and personal messages, but I will respond to them within next few days.

While going through your messages, I have also realized one thing, most of you are not happy with just innovating at a restricted budget, but you are looking to innovate at a faster pace than before. With the technology and the world moving faster each day, I can definitely understand your sentiment. Thus, in this blogpost, I will provide you with some strategies through which you can increase the speed of your innovation at your workplace.

Eliminate hierarchy: Large organizations often find it hard to respond to new market opportunities and change quickly due to the hierarchical burden that comes with these organizations. Thus, if it is possible, we should create smaller R&D teams in our organization which has its own budget and, who can work independently within this organization. If you don’t have that liberty to independently manage the R&D team, then you should at least keep it simple. Try to keep the product cycle small, and perform frequent inspection. Purpose of these inspections shouldn’t be profit based, just yet, but it should be a checking point to make sure that the research is headed in the right direction.

Change incentive system: From Microsoft to Google, we always hire R&D personnel from science-oriented background, and hence, their interests lie in technology, not in markets. These employees, being from technical background, are not trained to engage their customers in the decision making process. Thus, if we want to change this culture of “obsolete innovation”, then we have to start by changing the incentive system, itself. If we use stock options to align the work of our technical staff with the firm’s financial performance, then they will be able to understand the business environment in which your organization does business, and they are more likely to innovate things that help your business.

Create new roles: Changing the incentive system alone wouldn’t help you to change the culture of the entire organization. In order to kick start this organization-wide change, you need to create some new roles within the organization to focus explicitly on customer engagement. This can be done with either existing or new personnel who are placed in important positions within R&D where they can effect change. You can also build new, multi-skilled teams to help change existing practices within R&D. This might involve building teams with both marketing and technical skills to reduce traditional barriers between R&D, sales and customers. It may not even be necessary for all R&D personnel to change or take on a more customer-focused role. Just having one in five in an R&D team being more customer-focused might be enough.

I have seen this strategy work for many small businesses, and I am sure that it can work for you too, if implemented correctly. Please provide your feedback on this blogpost through your comments. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

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Software or Tool selection strategy that you should be using in your organization


Software

Recently I was called upon to help one of our local business to fix their existing ERP System, which they had outsourced couple of years ago. After some initial investigation, I quickly realized that this was not the right tool for their business. They were using an all purpose ERP system, which was made for bigger organizations, and they were trying to use it for a very specific purpose. Due to the complexity of the entire software suite, no one really knew how to use this tool completely, and they always ended up hiring some help to fix even a minor issue. Thus, through this blog, I am trying to provide you with some pointers that can help you select the right tool/software for your organization.

Finalize your requirements: Let’s assume that you own a Gas Station and a Convenience Store, and now you are thinking about streamlining your inventory through an automated system. Since you are a small and locally owned business, and you don’t have much knowledge of IT, you decide to hire a third party to help you with your IT needs. Stop right there. Before you even hire someone for helping you with your software needs, you need to have some rough idea of your technical and non-technical requirements. Maybe it is difficult for you to come up with your technical requirements, like – How many servers will we need? What kind of back-up system will we need? etc.; but you should at least jot down your functional requirements, like – What are we trying to achieve? How this new system will help you with your day-to-day business? Etc. Once you have the list of these requirements handy, you can then use this list as your checklist while selecting any software/tool for your needs.

Don’t go overboard: Even though there are many latest and greatest tools available out there, you shouldn’t be choosing your ‘tool of need’ just on the basis of how new and powerful it is. Sometimes most powerful tools might not suffice your actual needs, while some not-so-latest tool will do. Obviously, this is a very difficult decision to make, and hence, you should be evaluating your options based on selected attributes along with their respective weightage. This approach will take out all the human emotions from the tool selection process, and it will help you get the right tool for your specific needs. You should use license cost, training cost, user friendliness, and tool’s features as your attributes; while giving the higher weightage (a high number) to the most relevant attributes during tool selection process. Once that is done, you can then make your final selection based on the final score calculated for the tool(s).

Start small: Most of the executives and small business owners that I have met, try to implement everything at once. After all, they are buying a software/tool to help them out in making their current process efficient. Unfortunately, not everything works right out of the box. Thus, as a business owner, you need to go back to your requirements and identify your top 20% of requirements that you absolutely want to have, and then start it from there. Make sure that the consultant or the company that you have hired shows you incremental deliverables of the product that you are buying. With a pilot run, you will have the opportunity to provide your feedback in real time, and you won’t waste lot of your money before you realize that this software doesn’t meet your requirements. If the pilot run is successful, you can purchase the license or acquire the tool.

I hope, my blog can help you select the right tool/software for your business. If you have any other recommendations, then please feel free to share it here. Thanks – Bhavin Gandhi

 

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