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"We need some efficiency around here, Johnson! Lets buy some [major brand name here] computers. They'll cut our costs, get us organized, and solve our cash flow problems!"

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This may sound dumb, but it's done every day. It's precisely the message leading computer and software vendors shout at you without rest. Of course they do. If you know this little about computers you'll buy the most advertised items, and when they don't work you'll blame yourself or your employees - and buy newer, more powerful versions of the same stuff. "Everybody's using it, so it must be the best!". Computers and communications systems are tools, not miracle solutions to all your problems. Tools are something you have to learn to use.

The Road Map



Where to Start - Your Business Plan

We know you have a business plan because every business advisor, including your mother, has told you over and over a business plan is essential, so open it up. OK, what would it say if you were "able to find it". Remember, our intent is to meet real business needs, so we need to know what they are.

Now, if you already have computer stuff, pretend you don't. Start all over. Later, if you can incorporate what you already have in the plan, fine. If it doesn't fit, you're better off getting rid of it. If you bought it more than a year ago, it's "fully depreciated" (worthless) anyway.

Go through each of the menu items above, and consider each one in the light of your business plan. Sometimes you will have to reconsider previous decisions in light of later selections. Some of the items in our Nifty New Technologies section have special conditions your system will have to meet.

Don't be mislead by technology or those promoting it. If it doesn't meet real business needs for your business, it is worthless no matter how nifty neat-o it is. Don't expect any technology to be a miracle solution to all your problems, it won't be.

Now: go back and review your business plan and see if it needs changing because of new things you've learned about how a business should operate in todays world. For those of you "unable to find" your business plan, now would be a good time to write it. Then make another pass through the list.

Of course, an Automation Access consultant has knowledge of how others are using technology, and may be able to save you a lot of time in your evaluation and implementation process. (Index)


Choosing a Technology Philosophy

We all know the basic principle of business: taking risks in anticipation of gain. The greater the anticipated gain, the greater the risk it justifies. Your Technology Philosophy must follow this principle. Review your Business Plan, get in a realistic mood about your resources, and choose from these:
  • Aggressively Proactive
  • Cautiously Proactive
  • Reactive
  • Regressive
The Aggressively Proactive stance carries the highest risk, and greatest possibility of gain - like making your competitors irrelevant. An aggressively proactive business reengineers its processes around new technologies, allowing it to do business in new ways. Don't select this stance if you don't have the stomach for it - management buy-in and follow through is absolutely essential.

A business taking a Cautiously Proactive stance employs a mix of custom and standard technologies to reengineer some functions, simply automates other existing functions and just leaves some alone.

The Reactive stance is primarily concerned with keeping up, and compliance with outside requirements. A business taking this stance is concerned with "what everyone else is doing", and will almost always opt for the "All Microsoft" approach.

The Regressive stance, where technology is brought in only to "save money" presents little risk, because there can be no gain. Computers never save money. If rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic makes you feel better about the outcome, go for it.

The section Avoiding Technology Failure touches on the importance of management commitment from the very highest levels. Whichever philosophy you choose, follow-through is absolutely essential for success. Without real commitment at the top, you might as well not start. (Index)


RULES

RULE #1: The goal is to increase income, not reduce costs. Computers don't reduce costs - never have. Trying to use computers to reduce costs is a sucker play. Computers have to be justified by increasing income. They can make it possible to increase income more, and at proportionally less additional cost, than otherwise possible, or to overcome limitations in available resources, or to make information available to more people faster. That is why you would want them. If you are shrinking, they are more likely to administer the final blow.

RULE #2: Computers don't organize anything. If you can't get organized without computers, your mess is just going to be bigger, and a lot more expensive, and stuff will be screwed up a lot worse and a lot faster.

RULE #3: Computers are not for automating existing methods and procedures. That vein played out 15 years ago with word processors and accountant's spreadsheets. Properly applied, computers enable you to do things in new ways, and things you couldn't do at all before. If you just automate, and your competitors start with a fresh look, you could be in "deep do do" (to quote a former U.S. President).

RULE #4: If your "solution" is over 50% hardware, you are almost certainly in trouble. Hardware is just a tool. The real solution is design, carefully fit software, and training. (Index)

©:Andrew Grygus - Automation Access - www.aaxnet.com - aax@aaxnet.com
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