What’s the problem you’re trying to solve?
Is your team growing so rapidly that you are losing a grasp of process and best practice? Are you producing a product plagued with quality issues? Are standards applied sporadically and inconsistently within your business? Are wastefulness and inefficiency losing you money? Are mistakes in process being replicated and amplified?
If so, investing in business management software may well be the answer.
Types of business management software
Some business management solutions are designed for growing businesses to better track and control their development and manufacturing processes, as well as streamline their approach to quality and project management. Others are all-encompassing, monolithic systems designed to manage planning, financials, process, quality assurance and supply chains from a single multi-functional platform.
Some of these BMS solutions are cloud-based and can be set up by non-coders; some require lengthy installation by IT specialists, as well as extensive training to get them up and running.
What do you really need?
When you’re thinking about choosing BMS software to streamline processes and improve standards across your organisation, it’s worth thinking holistically about the root causes of the issues you are experiencing and what you really need from a solution.
You should start by identifying your specific pain points as a company, and then look to assess various business management solutions against them:
Fig 1: Business Management Software should make process optimisation much easier
Define and specify
Areas that typically cause quality headaches and inhibit the success of rapidly growing organisations include:
- Inability to identify and analyse gaps in business processes
- Difficulties in spotting where mistakes are happening and where vital tasks and responsibilities are orphaned in a workflow
- Lack of visibility of the structures and dependencies of every department in a business and the tasks they undertake. This can make training more burdensome and less successful.
- A need for better electronic project management tools to support product development processes. These might include digital tools that offer document phase gating support for complex projects.
- Problems with post-release and product management processes. Customer feedback and usage analytics may not be stored routinely and systematically. Opportunities for improvement or process correction may be lost as a consequence.
- Lack of an accessible and auditable digital repository for vital business documentation.
- Inability to apply consistent change control over process and quality documentation
- Inability to respond quickly and efficiently to auditing requests, for example, those triggered by ISO 9001 or ISO 13485
Business management software exists to address exactly these issues, but very often the available solutions are too unwieldy, expensive and prescriptive in the way they operate to truly answer the needs of an agile SME.
Because of this, it’s important for smaller, growing businesses to realistically assess the installation time, scalability and cost of any chosen solution against the benefits they need to bring in the short, medium and long term.
How long have you got?
How quickly do you need to install and deploy your solution? Have you failed an audit, or need to achieve ISO 9001 or ISO 13485 as a priority? If so, how disruptive and time-consuming are you prepared for the software installation process to be? Heavyweight BMS solutions can take months to install and require considerable training to become operational. Would a lightweight, cloud-based solution be more suitable for the size and scale of your business?
Too much too soon?
When budgets and time scales are tight, it’s crucial to be able to prioritise the introduction of critical functionality over other less important features, to support each new phase of your company’s journey.
For example, the pursuit of quality is really a continuous process and should be treated as such. As McKinsey points out here, to achieve the objectives of ISO 9001 or ISO 13485 does not mean every quality goal must be met or exceeded from the outset, or that you must have at your disposal all the quality tools that a larger, more mature organisation might require to observe and maintain required standards.
In fact, a lightweight, flexible system could help a small or medium sized business more quickly achieve a basic, required level of quality than a system intended to work for an organisation of thousands spread across multiple locations.
A more flexible solution can then scale with you to help you implement processes that develop more proactive, self-sustaining quality strategies in the long term.
So, what’s the best business management software system?
The most effective business management systems are, in effect, quality management systems. But they achieve quality goals by making businesses more competitive, commercially focused and successful rather than through the imposition of burdensome, box-ticking protocol.
A business management system needs to sit at the heart of an organisation. It should be a central repository for best practice guidelines; an operational bible that can fulfil oversight, change control and training functions across a company. But it needs to do so in such a way that will support your evolution naturally and not ‘get in the way’ of daily operations or be so cumbersome it can’t be practically used.
A graphical Business Management System (gBMS) is a good example of a process-driven intranet solution that is flexible and scalable. This kind of system allows you to create business process maps, interactive graphical depictions of the way your entire company functions at every level to assist with induction, training and optimisation.
These modelling functions are then underpinned by a secure and robust document management system, where all the detail (the quality and business documentation pertaining to a company) can be stored, viewed retrieved and edited according to an access hierarchy.
Making the right decision
Selecting the right business management software to help you achieve quality and business goals requires proper research and deliberation. We advise that you draw up a shortlist of solutions, ask for a demonstration (or even a trial of each), and assess their capabilities against a list of specifications, as well as current and future objectives.
The right solution should answer your quality needs, to be sure, but it should do so through its ability to marshal process, embed best practice and become the operational bible to which the whole of your business contributes and refers.