It’s not always possible to get ahead of the curve when it comes to predicting potential business problems, but it certainly makes things easier in the long run when you do. Here are a few assessments you can use to evaluate current and future issues to help you maintain business continuity.
You’ve heard it before, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a phrase that means if something is functioning properly, it’s best to leave it as is – don’t make any changes that could potentially break it. Bert Lance coined this phrase in the May 1977 issue of Nation’s Business magazine.
How many times have you (or should I say we) taken this idiom as gospel? Frankly, it may have been the mode of action we followed in the past due to financial, time, resource or economic constraints. It would have made sense then to avoid fixing a “not yet a problem” a decade ago. But in today’s fast-changing digital world, if you don’t address these problems in a timely manner, it might restrict your business’s nimbleness and ability to change.
Different Levels of Business Problems
Now it is good to categorize these problems into three areas:
- The problem exists – You have a cracked foundation, and those cracks are visible.
- The problem is starting to happen – The first few cracks have started to show up.
- The problem is “not yet a problem” – The cracks are not yet visible but will become so soon if overlooked.
Though it is common sense to do restorative or preventative maintenance on the problems mentioned above, at times, we intentionally overlook them. Here is an example for each degree of the business problem discussed above:
Technology Upgrade – The Visible Problem
You have been trying to avoid upgrading your technology “payment systems” since you installed it in COBOL decades ago because it has worked fine so far, with minimal upgrades. You know that mainframe systems are old technology, and eventually, resources with this expertise will become scarce. You need to fix this problem now before it’s too late. This is a case where the problem clearly exists.
Business Process Change – The Developing Problem
Last year your company strategy changed to focus on increasing the cash flow to fuel more innovation projects. Traditionally, the company’s “Order to Cash (OTC)” business process takes longer due to delayed customer payments after receiving services and also increasing dependency on surrounding technology solutions. From a process standpoint, since you do not have the accountability or budget to address the end-to-end process and system integration, you apply a “patchwork” to integrate systems. Instead of streamlining or fixing the problem, your solution increased the technical debt and manual process steps. This is a case where the problem is starting to happen.
People and Skill Needs – The Potential Problem
You and your team are company “rock stars,” whose management always summons to tackle the most complex problems regardless of the time it takes. Your team spends countless hours on the weekend to get it done, whatever the need. Naturally, they are overutilized and overextended. How long do you think they can sustain this pace and workload? Should you think about onboarding more people to ease the hours and make work more reasonable for everyone? This is a business problem that is not yet visible.
I can think of other examples where we apply a temporary “band-aid” to situations or ignore them altogether to avoid investing resources. In my 18-years of experience across mid-sized to Fortune 500 companies, I have seen these exact situations play out and contribute to business failure or ineffective company adaptation to the quick pace of change that today’s digital transformation programs require.
How Can You Resolve Your Potential Business Problems?
Now that we know that resolution of the problem is necessary, we can categorize the solution into two buckets:
You can use assessments after you have a problem, and it needs restoration, but these are better as preventative maintenance.
Taking a proactive action by doing quick assessments around operating models – people, process, technology and information — is one effective way to start this “fixing” process. Here are a few types of assessments that can help.
- Business Assessments – These are great ways to identify the leaks, gaps and risky areas within your business functionality. A business assessment also allows you to look into how to make your business more resilient.
- Process Assessments – This type of assessment shows where in your process(es) you should remove the inefficiencies such as rework, manual work, context switching, inflexible workforce, high wait times and focus on low priority work.
- Organization Assessments – An organization assessment can capture the voice of your employees and customers to identify the pain points they feel but don’t necessarily communicate. The cultural, performance, change, training and leadership impacts on day-to-day work can highlight areas of opportunity.
- Information or Data Assessments – These are great ways to evaluate if your company has trustworthy data and architecture to underpin data-driven decision-making.
The important point behind these assessments is to find one or more in a shape and size that suits your needs: from a quick diagnostic working session (few hours), workshop (few days), deep-dive assessments in selected areas (few weeks) to full-fledged comprehensive assessment across operating model (few months).
As you search for a resolution to your business problems, remember: it’s always better to get ahead of the problem before it gets ahead of you.