This four part series, is based on our interviews with CEO and founder of RealVNC, Dr Andy Harter, about how he grew a small tech startup into a future billion dollar company.
"You can do an awful lot using a spreadsheet" said Andy Hartner, CEO and co-founder of RealVNC enigmatically in the closing moments of our interview.
From a consumer perspective, tech, apps and gadgets all make our life faster, more efficient and easier. From a business perspective tech, apps and gadgets can make a business sleeker, more efficient and speed up the workflow process (the operative word being "can"). In this article we'll explore why "upgrading" a system can actually be an operational downgrade, and look at when to upgrade your enterprise.
Why build a battleship when a dinghy would do?
Enterprise software is typically based around information management; CRM software, accounting software, and analytics software are all designed to make navigating vast oceans of data a breeze. The majority of enterprise applications are incredibly useful and worthwhile... once it makes sense for you to have them.
Dr Harter explains, "The sorts of scale that the medium SME company runs at, I think so much of that can be done either by hand or with a minimum amount of automation to it. It doesn't matter if all the business systems don't talk to each other because you know you could put in place an enormously complex, enormously expensive system and only use one per cent of it and actually not really get any performance improvement, and so what's the point?"
The most important factor in doing business when margins are tight is to do things as efficiently as possible. When you start a business it's likely to be just you or a small team of very dedicated people so your staff turnover will be zero. This means that you can, for example, all use and develop a sales contacts spreadsheet and not have to worry about explaining how to use it to new staff members. Similarly Microsoft's Excel tool is made exponentially more useful if a member of your team has, or is willing to learn, some level of visual basic.
With fewer points with which to share information, your workflow process is likely to be simple and it'd be pointless to complicate that system with superfluous apps.
When to build your "battleship"
Once your enterprise grows to a certain level you're going to need to better tools to make effective use of all the information on leads, sales etc effectively. Similarly as your enterprise grows, so will your staff numbers. In order to reduce issues such as downtime having to train new/replacement staff members, build global collaborative environments and to get your business running better and faster, then your technology will need to evolve to facilitate expansion and to ensure that the enterprise tools you use are as intuitive to use as possible.
For example using SaaS (software as a service) cloud based tools (such as Office 365 or Nimble) is a great investment for a number of reasons:
Security: All your workstations will use the same software and you won't need to ensure that everyone is patching correctly because SaaS does that automatically
Saves on IT costs: SaaS means that you don't need to keep buying unlock codes every time a new staff member joins. If something breaks software-wise it's likely to be an issue with the software provider, so you can call them to fix it.
Workflow: You know that everyone has the same programs so are "reading from the same page." This avoids workplace annoyances such as file incompatibility, features that some have and some don't, and people using different versions of software.
Before you invest in a new program suite, app or enterprise tool, look at what you already have. What do you specifically need to do? Is there a way to do it already? If we invest in this new thing, can we make full use of it?
There are no hard and fast rules about when you should and when you shouldn't invest in new tech, but the important thing to remember is to think before you add or change a step in your workflow process. Dr Harter shared how businesses often "over-complicate the processes and procedures. They over-complicate the kind of software and technology that they think they need."
In part one of the series Dr Harter reveals the one overlooked secret to success, in part two of the series Dr Harter reveals his techniques for growing a tech startup into a billion dollar company, in part three he explains the pros and cons of your financing options.