Are Your Information Systems Holding You Back?

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Photo credit: Scan Technology LLC

Photo credit: Scan Technology LLC

In our busy industry, with the ongoing pressure to keep live plants moving out the door, it’s easy to see why investing in updated information systems and processes can fall down the list of priorities. However, until these things move to the top of the list, your business will always be operating below its potential. Too often, businesses miss the key to operational excellence — a well thought-out and flexible system is the foundation for conducting business today.

It’s time to stop focusing on today’s to-do list and start working toward a business model — and systems that support it — that will take you, successfully, into the future.

How Do You Know If Your Systems Are Holding You Back?

An information system (IS) is the network of hardware, software and processes that people rely on to filter, collect, create and distribute data. Effective IS infrastructure supports your business operation and allows for informed decision making.

Answer this question: Do I make decisions based on what our software and processes can handle, or do I make decisions because it is the best way to do things?

Have you ever thought, “Great idea but our accounting/payroll/CRM/CMS system can’t handle that, so it’s just not feasible”?

Then you know it’s time.

Too often, we let assumptions dictate the direction we head in. “It’s too expensive to overhaul how we do things.” Or, “We don’t have time to teach everyone a new way — let’s just make do with what we have.”

Fear can also hold us back: “There are too many options, I’m afraid of making the
wrong decision.”

If your operational excellence in the greenhouse is being nullified by systems that don’t support your processes, or if a new product or service cannot be properly implemented because your system is not flexible enough to handle the change, then you need to consider upgrading.

If this is starting to sound familiar then it is time to ask a new question: “What will happen if I don’t?”

Examine The Drawbacks Of Inaction

If you continue to operate with systems that don’t work for your business, you could quickly lose that competitive advantage you’ve worked so hard to obtain. If your business model is so inflexible that you can’t accommodate certain situations, it might start to overrule the strides you have made in quality and variety selection. Or, you could face a situation in which your employees start to get fed up with an antiquated way of working. Making informed business decisions is almost impossible with insufficient reporting and data collection, and day-to-day tasks can be made so much more difficult with archaic systems and processes in place.

So, where should you start? This process can begin in a series of steps:

1. Instill a belief in your organization that business processes and the correlating information systems can and do impact your daily business.

2. Be honest with yourself about what is working and where improvements

3. Research your options.

4. Move forward.

The first step is to truly believe that the systems and processes set up in your main office are equally important to what’s happening in your greenhouse. Then, step back and look at your way of doing business. Try to free yourself from the thinking of how you’ve always done things to how you should be doing them.

Make a list. What works, what doesn’t? Once you know what business processes need to be attacked, do your research.

What’s Better For Business: Standardized Or Customized Systems?

Sometimes businesses share a pain point and there is something that exists already to help you. Sometimes it’s as simple as better training to make the best use of the software you already have. Sometimes a custom solution is required.

In any case, the most important thing is to make your solution yours and don’t take shortcuts. Don’t try to force something to work for you if it just doesn’t. Your systems need to be flexible and fluid to truly support your business processes. Remember, your software and processes are meant to work for you, not the other way around.

Custom Technology Solutions
Pros

  • Gain a competitive advantage.
  • Software is tailored to your business requirements rather than altering your practices to fit the software.
  • Flexibility to develop in phases and implement upgrades on your schedule; implementing custom software has become much easier today than in the past.

Cons

  • Usually requires a larger budget.
  • Can take more time to implement.
  • Cost of enhancements and updates are your responsibility.

Off-The-Shelf Technology Solutions
Pros

  • No development time required; the product is available as soon as it is purchased.
  • Sometimes cost efficiencies can be gained with a mass-market product.
  • Upgrades and enhancements provided by the app owner.

Cons

  • No competitive advantage, since it is available to all competitors.
  • Custom functionality is not available. You conform to the app rather than the app conforming to you.
  • Can be expensive. Not only do you have to purchase the software, you have to pay for implementation and time upgrades.

Once you know which direction is best for you, make a commitment to it and move forward.

Innovation Is An Investment In Success

Remember, upgrading your systems is not about being cutting edge for the sake of being cutting edge. It’s about investing in the future of your business and making sure your processes support your success, not hinder it. If a company does not innovate, if it does not evolve with technology, then it cannot sustain a competitive advantage. In a time when things are moving so quickly and innovations are coming at you left and right, information is key. Without it, decisions are just guesses and if you don’t have the right system supporting you and allowing you to react quickly, then you will soon fall behind.

Suzanne McKee ( suzannem@eplantsource.com ) is director of marketing at ePlantSource, where she is responsible for providing an intuitive user interface for customers.
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