A week ago, I had an opportunity to hear an economic update from a Federal Reserve Bank economist. While the numbers are far from fabulous, most seem to agree we are on the road out of recession.
Have you reduced employee counts and canceled or delayed capital projects? Do you lack the bench strength and infrastructure to support significant customer and revenue growth? Here are three tips for getting your house in order now:
1. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the slower business cycle to make the day-to-day processes in your company more efficient, start now. Increase productivity so initial growth can be absorbed by existing employees. Inefficient process examples:
- Your employees record their time on paper or in Excel. Others enter the data into payroll, into project tracking systems and then again into client billing systems.
- A lab order is faxed in. Then a coordinator searches for the patient. If information is missing or unreadable, the referring physician is called. Patient and order information are then entered into the lab system.
- New requests get faxed then emailed to customer service which then inputs the information into the appropriate system, whether that be policy changes into policy administration, benefits questions into follow up logs or new claims into the claims system.
2. Assess your IT function. Are the people, processes and technology ready to support significant growth?
- Create your ideal organizational chart and job descriptions. Compare them against your current staff and know where each fits long term. Once you start hiring again, make sure candidates fit into empty spots in the target structure. Supplement with consultants for functions that don’t need a full time resource, or where flexibility or skill level is key.
- If your IT infrastructure isn’t ready, slow response and downtime can result in lost opportunities for new customers as the recovery takes off. It may also hurt existing customer relationships. Consolidating applications and minimizing the number of technologies increases efficiency and reduces ongoing support costs.
3. Identify “quick hit” technology projects that increase quality and productivity. Aim for a payback of 9 months or less, with a project duration of 6 months or less. If you have cash flow constraints, identify them all but focus on those with minimal investment requirements outside of staff time. Example projects:
- Create interfaces between systems. Many financial systems have pre-defined interfaces for import files.
- Design an internal web page that displays your key business performance indicators. Review daily indicators to catch financial and operational issues early.
- Identify contracts and negotiate rates before they automatically renew.
- Leverage outside services for website hosting and other functions that may require hardware expansion quickly.
Following these three tips will help prepare you for the upcoming growth. Beware thinking of improvement as an “all or nothing” proposition. Commit your organization to whatever portion of these tips is feasible. Those who can quickly support growth and change will have a competitive advantage as recovery gets stronger.
About The Guest Author: Laura Pettit Rusick works with CEOs to optimize IT at small and mid-sized organizations, focusing on strategic technology planning and management. For those interested in benefiting from business process efficiency projects, sign up to receive the PDF “Ten Critical Success Factors for Optimizing Business Processes“. Laura’s website is http://www.optsolutionsinc.com.