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May 12, 2017 | Jeffrey Palermo

Every company that’s been in business long enough has had to deal with a family of software that grows over time.

Not to worry. There are a variety of reasons why companies should not be on one single software platform. From brand new product lines and cost centers to additional reporting requirements and 3rd party software apps, a company simply can’t cover 100% of its needs with one software application.

But that doesn’t mean your software family has to be dysfunctional. Just like a real family, your software family can work in harmony to further the collective goals of the family unit, which in this case happens to be your business.

So how can you tell your software family has gone from the Brady Bunch to a particularly bad episode of the Kardashians? Fortunately, there are some signs that you can easily spot. Here are some the Clear Measure team often see:

Communication breakdowns:

Just like any family squabble, there’s always a reason for your business systems not working well together. You could have different technology platforms for different parts of the business. Maybe your inventory and operations are running on something custom developed while your accounting and reporting software are commercial off-the-shelf apps. Throw in an EDI solution that manages your incoming orders and a SharePoint Intranet for purchase orders, well then you have the makings of a real family kerfuffle.

Your problem? A lack of seamless and reliable communication between your various business software solutions. And it’s not as uncommon as you think. If one key software or system begins to fall behind, it acts as a drag on all of your operations.

Orphaned processes:

In Hollywood, the orphan who finds a home usually has a happy ending right? Not so in the world of business software. Business process orphans come in many shapes and sizes. It could be a completely different product line for which there is no suitable software to manage it, let alone synch it with your other software. Maybe you implemented a new warranty policy that now requires you to track any parts and labor that goes into refurbishing products. Or what if you add a service line under a Federal government contract and you’re required to account for every detail in your order fulfilment process? Whatever the case may be, doing nothing about your business process orphans is not a viable long-term strategy.

IT could use a break:

If you imagine your software and other IT resources as if it were a production line, and the team responsible for manufacturing is constantly repairing the machines and unable to hit the production targets you have set, well then you can imagine they would start feeling like the outcast of the family.

IT already has one of the highest turnover rates in the business. That’s partly because wages in IT continue to climb and opportunities for jobs are plentiful. But companies don’t help themselves if their IT professionals are constantly trying to manage multiple systems, fix bugs in custom software and answer trouble tickets.

Bottom line: If you’re finding it harder and harder to find and retain good IT talent, then it’s a sure sign your business software family may need an intervention.

Time to reconcile:

Dysfunctional families rarely take the time to make up. If your business software is dysfunctional, you usually spend way too much time doing it. Whether it’s daily, monthly or yearly, a business running multiple software apps and systems requires reconciliations to true-up balances in key accounts. For instance, a disconnect between inventory and a sales order system may require salespeople to manually verify inventory before committing to a customer order. Such wasted time adds up fast and increases the risk of self-inflicted errors, product returns and customer attrition.

Data black sheep:

Dysfunctional families usually have a black sheep who throws the whole family unit into chaos. Maybe your business software family has one in the form of a data integrity problem? If you’re a company that comes under the scrutiny of a periodic government or private audit and your data has issues, you run a real risk of incurring fines or other penalties. Imagine a medical device technology company that can’t rely on its product failure data and then falls under the watchful eye of the FDA. The result could be the loss of public trust, market share and even an entire product line.

“These Happy Days…”

Not every family has to stay dysfunctional. One of America’s iconic families was the Cunningham family on the classic ABC sitcom, Happy Days. We laughed as they worked through their problems, family spats and hard lessons. The key was the Cunninghams and their friends worked through them.

If you’re looking to get back to the good old days of your software working in harmony with the rest of your business then you’ll have to work at it too. Feel free to give Clear Measure a shout if you need ‘The Fonz’ to give you some valuable street wisdom and a whack on the jukebox.