Middle market leadership teams are faced with the challenge to maintain their competitiveness in the marketplace and keep up with the fast-paced changes in technology. They are on the threshold of a new world of operational efficiency, productivity and customer engagement through the Industrial Internet of Things. When speaking with senior leaders of middle market companies, we routinely hear the following questions:
- How well am I operating and utilizing my current IT/IS infrastructure?
- How good are we at utilizing our current IT/IS infrastructure at communicating with suppliers and customers?
- Does my current IT/IS infrastructure support the company’s strategic direction?
- Are our existing technology and software investments effectively meeting our current needs?
- Are our IT/IS platforms serving the company’s current life cycle needs and are they scalable and flexible enough to support future life cycle needs?
- Are there more effective IT/IS “Total Cost of Ownership” models that the company could be using?
- How can we be better at customer interface and interaction?
Questions 1 & 2 are straight forward and can be answered through an assessment. Questions 3-6 require a bit more information because they are strategic in nature and dependent on where the company is in its current lifecycle. All companies go through five business life cycles as shown in the graphic below.
These cross over points may happen over a long period and some companies go through these cycles many times. Middle market companies are especially challenged by the second and third cycle: Growth and Maturation. Typically, a company moves through the first two cycles by stitching together business processes, information technologies and organizations.
At some point during the transition from growth to maturity, leadership recognizes that this patchwork cannot support the company’s future because it isn’t efficient or scalable. We have seen it in dozens of companies. As we peel back the layers of the problem, we find that there are many issues causing this.
- Out of date IT infrastructure and software
- Ineffective customer facing systems
- Dozens of shadow systems designed to make up for business process and IT shortcomings
- Inefficient business processes, including those left-overs from when the company was immature
- Wrong organization structure and lack of appropriate skills to move forward
Leadership will attempt to identify the one or two projects (such as getting a new ERP system or installing a HRIS, making an organizational change, adding a CRM, etc.) that they think will get things back in order. While this may help, it is shortsighted if it isn’t part of a larger strategic plan to transform business processes and systems in a way that is scalable and can accelerate business growth and profitability. Senior leaders need to know the answers to the 6 questions before they can effectively plan their next steps.
We see leadership teams struggle with the problem on how to prioritize this evolution to newer technologies and ways of doing business. This problem is made worse by the rate of change of technology. No sooner have they implemented a new system and there is another generation available. This high rate of change often causes leadership teams to put off making a decision until the next generation arrives: Another short-sighted approach.
We believe that companies who are significantly behind in both technology and business process should take the time to develop a planned transformation that is based on establishing scalable building blocks that can take advantage of next generation systems as they evolve. A recent Deloitte mid-market survey observed that 41% of respondents see “critical” value in technology as a differentiator and catalyst for growth, while 38% view technology as a strategic investment.. The rapidly changing face of technology and its myriad offerings makes for a bewildering range of choices. Choices that need careful consideration and planning. Mid-market companies that have made the alignment between the business and IT find themselves edging out competitors in productivity and cost reduction.
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About the Author: Jim Gitney is the CEO of Group50 Consulting. Group50 works with middle market companies to help them plan and implement their journey through various business life cycles. Jim has worked with companies from start-up through Fortune 50 and understands how technology and business processes are the platforms for growth and higher profitability. Group50 offers over 50 assessments and workshops, part of our Company Physical®, that are designed to provide a client’s leadership team with the appropriate insights to how their business operates and identifies the opportunities to significantly improve business performance. You can reach Jim at (909)-949-9083, request more information here or drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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