Turning data into intelligence to drive business growth

A view from Exel Computer Systems…

Great businesses know that a key secret to growth is an organisation where Sales, Manufacturing and Service move seamlessly towards delivering customer value. This is why they invest in their organisation, building competence, teamwork and infrastructure. But as Internet connectivity and mobile working are becoming the norm, so there has been an explosion of data entering organisations. Managers realise that this data is vital to their competitiveness, yet most are frustrated that their business systems infrastructure is often disconnected and difficult to data mine.

There are of course many solutions on the market from which to choose, as well as two differing schools of thought regarding the composition of those solutions. Historically, business systems in large were collections of programs brought together via third party written links providing loose integration. However, if you wish to be able to fully utilise the power and value inherent within your data, a fully integrated solution provides the best tools for the collection, management and reporting of that data.

There are perhaps four principles you should take into account when considering which school of thought to adhere to.

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Focus on creating a 360 degree view of the Customer: Business is about customers, and the better the view of the customer, the more likely growth will be achieved. It is not just about sales & marketing identifying the next opportunity. This customer data enables:

– Manufacturing to optimise their sales & operations planning
– Engineering to develop and improve product service solutions based on performance, quality and usage feedback
– Service to drive new profit streams and increase loyalty

Clearly identify and prioritise the key drivers in your business: For example if you are an equipment manufacturer whose goal is to develop a servitisation type business model, data transparency between engineering, manufacturing and service will be vital. On the other hand if you have a large service organisation, your emphasis might be more on scheduling and workflow transparency.

Scalability: Don’t just think about today! Think about where your business will be in 5 years. Your chosen solution should be able to cope with ever increasing users and data, as well as being adaptable to both business changes and technological developments. This is especially true today, as technology advances around product connectivity and mobility are dramatically changing business models and hence service operations in ways we have yet to imagine.

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An outside–in perspective: Don’t concentrate on your needs from an internal perspective. Get out and find out what other companies are doing. In particular look outside your immediate competitors at industries where you know they have been driven towards best practice. For example, in the Heating, Ventilation & Air conditioning market there is such a high level of government regulation and competition that these companies have had to develop excellent processes and business systems for managing maintenance activity and reporting. Not only just managing the information, but also down to the usability of mobile solutions that ensure their service teams are truly effective.

There are other considerations in developing your business systems, but these four will certainly help you to specify the systems you need to grow your business, rather than being driven by technology and hype.

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