Volume 14, Issue 8- October 2013

Guest Column

Loose Ends
Ensuring These Don’t Make You Crazy
by Nick Carter

Timing is everything. Take the man who went in for his physical and all of the associated tests. He bumps into his doctor at a party and the doctor tells him he has some bad news and some really bad news. “The bad news is that your tests came back and show that you have 48 hours to live.” The horrified man responded, “What can be worse than that?!” The doctor replied, “I’ve been trying to reach you for two days!”

Fortunately, it seems that much of the news for our industry is on the good side for a change. The positives are also tempered with caution. The good news is that most of the companies that have survived, and now looking to get back into a growth mode, are trimmed down and extremely lean. The dilemma is handling increasing workloads with existing personnel.

We recently completed a workshop with several customers to discuss this issue. Every time we meet with owners and managers they each have their own specific (and different) parts of the business they have to stay on top of every day. It’s the “loose ends” that drive them crazy, and each company’s “loose ends” are different.

The Breakthrough Assistant
Reports, while valuable, are in some cases a “Where’s Waldo?” exercise.

Users like the dashboards and drill down capabilities, but as one of our customers put it, “While I like the speedometer and radar detector on my car and use them all the time, it would be great if I had an assistant who was sitting at every radar trap and notified me before I crested the hill!”

This is where we see the technology challenge and opportunity ahead.

When you think about it, the decision process is fairly straightforward. Your system is (or should be) generating information (in reports, dashboards, etc.) and then someone is analyzing (by reading, drilling through data, etc.) and then reacting. Since staffs are smaller than in the past, management spends a lot of time chasing things down.

Almost every system has automated the clerical level, but the real payback is when we can automate at the management level and have the system take care of the “loose ends.

We have been fortunate in that one of our primary vendors is a major player in the medical information technology arena. We have benefited from observing how some of the most time-critical applications in health care are analyzed and addressed.

Cutting Through Layers
A challenge that they face, and one we see often, are the multiple external layers and systems that are introduced at many stages of the purchase process. A customer email can trigger an order process to begin. Orders are placed using a manufacturer’s third-party entry system and need to be reformatted and entered into your system. You may have an order process that involves several departments at various stages for approval/rejection that could require coordinating system monitored and human intervention events (see chart). You may want something as simple as changes in an order by customer service to be immediately communicated via email and/or text to the sales rep and maybe even the customer. The list grows with your imagination.

In essence, we are seeing the need for not just a single system, but multiple systems working together as an integrated tool. You can’t do just 80 percent and provide the best outcome.

The customers that attended our meeting really expanded the horizons we now see as opportunities to better serve the key decision makers. As the “loose ends” become less of a factor, they can provide a much better experience for their customers and focus on the creative aspects of their responsibilities.

Nick Carter is president of WoodWare Systems, based in Cordova, Tenn.


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