Are your business systems maximising your true potential?

Most organisations use multiple business management applications to run their business. If you are an architect or engineer you will be using applications to design and deliver your projects, plan and manage projects and people, and to monitor and report financial performance. As the business grows applications are added that get the job done but don’t necessarily “talk” to each other.

While an integrated system may manage most of your activity, rarely will it handle the industry specific operations. What can and should be integrated, how do you make the integration decision, what systems do you use and at what point do you deliver a return on your investment? How can the functionality sufficiently meet the requirements of the business? And how do you measure this?

To begin the process of deciding what’s right for your business, you should firstly answer the following questions:

  • Will your finance department share client, contact and project data with business development?
  • Is it a requirement to forecast income and profitability?
  • Does your time recording system integrate with your payroll system or your invoicing system?
  • Does your project life cycle process need to be streamlined?
  • Should your executives have real-time visibility to financial metrics?
  • Do you know if your employees are under or over utilised?
  • Do you know if you have enough work to sustain your firm for at least 6 months?
  • Do you have a clear understanding of what your business will be like in 12 months?

Then ask yourself these questions and you will get closer to where you are and what you need:

  • Are your project leaders required to plan and monitor their project performance?
  • Does the performance of individual projects matter to you?
  • Do you want to attract and retain the best people?
  • Do you use studio wide resource planning and are you still doing this in ad-hoc spreadsheets?
  • Should you record and track your business development activity?
  • Do you need to accurately forecast your future income and costs?
  • Should you have only one place where you keep client and project information?

It’s not that difficult to make the decision about what is right for your business. But do you have the willingness and drive to embed in your business a culture of ‘great business management’? How important is it to:

  • Put in place solid business foundations?
  • Maximise the financial performance of your business?
  • Ensure that all of your projects are managed well?
  • Know that your project leaders are using effective project management tools?
  • Ensure that you are maximising the capacity of your people?

We are often surprised at the level of indifference to — or lack of knowledge of — what the critical business management principles are. Ask yourself: ‘are you running a business’ or ‘are you delivering projects’? It’s a fundamental question that all business leaders need to ask themselves.

Where do you sit on a scale of 1–10 with your business foundations? One of the key principles of a great business is great business management systems—systems that enable you to control and build a sustainable business.

So what does your business system look like?

Your business systems need to:

  1. Be designed for project based businesses
  2. Integrate the key business information into a ‘single source of truth’
  3. Provide real time visibility and analytics on demand
  4. Enable great project management
  5. Optimise resource utilisation for profitability
  6. Adapt to changing business requirements
  7. Adhere to government reporting requirements
  8. Provide an executive-level view of project and company health
  9. Allow for seamless transfer of information.

Do your systems tell you where you are heading not just where you have been?

Ideally, your business systems will have a positive impact on every aspect of your business, from business development to project control, forecasting and invoicing. Your systems should allow Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data to seamlessly integrate into project planning, contract management and invoicing. Collaborative project management and tracking tools should work in tandem with back office support applications such as accounting, CRM and financial management.

A strong industry-specific Business Management System should give you the tools you need to make better decisions through greater visibility, insight and control across all components of your projects and the business as a whole.

This article, by Management for Design’s Rob Peake, was originally published on the Management for Design website,