Software should serve service sectors
Posted by Ivo Totev
Service businesses are fundamentally different than product-centric businesses in almost every aspect of their operations. Unfortunately, most business software available today is built on platforms designed for product-centric organizations, and the consequences can be severe: The need for bespoke development, resulting in lost time, revenue and opportunity. Requirements change, implementation requires a long time, business slows, and expenses grow.
Ultimately, the software that runs your business must be designed for your business from the ground up. If you are in a services–centric business, there is a good chance it wasn’t.
Change, Change, Change
Product-centric businesses have certain characteristics, no matter what they are producing, distributing or selling. Service industries are fundamentally different. They are notable for their complexity and their continuous, rapid flow of data. Change is central to every aspect. People change, processes change, organizations change.
In a services business the people are the product. It is a product that thinks, evolves, collaborates, decides, errs, re-decides, forgets, sulks, and is hopefully most of the time creative and brilliant. People create a constant stream of disparate data, a flood that includes reports, time sheets, expense reports, memos, emails, appointments, meeting minutes, data, data, and more data. The right system captures this data naturally and totally, despite the wide variety of sources and the less-than-perfect person responsible for entering it. It provides a seamless, easy, intuitive user experience. The wrong system discourages usage and that can leave your business blind to critical data, insights and opportunities.
Service organizations generate more changes in processes than their thing-centered counterparts. Once again, it is the nature of business when people are key to the product, and it is the result of providing services, which are difficult to predict and measure.
For services, business opportunities appear suddenly, and software must be nimble enough to support an agile response. Problems appear constantly, and software must be simple and flexible enough so that modifications can be implemented without expense and delays. Inflexible product-centric software requires slow and costly technical resources for even simple adaptions.
To make things even more challenging, there is not one service industry. It is actually a collection of a very different types of businesses, and each of these sub-segments has vastly different processes and needs. Running a professional services firm is totally different than running a hospital, a city or a university. The public sector will find grant management extremely important. The professional services segment needs powerful project management capabilities.
From the viewpoint of organizational structure, we arrive at the same conclusion: Service businesses are highly dynamic compared to their product-oriented counterparts. They are subject to frequent reorganization, restructuring, mergers and acquisitions. Departments and staff assignments are shuffled, reshuffled and shuffled again. Regulatory and governmental mandates create additional need for constant and comprehensive modification. So do the demands of financial management.
Software that runs an organization this fluid cannot be built on a rigid foundation. The cost of reorganization will be enormous in terms of dollars spent and time lost.
Good News in a Tough Environment
The speed of business is accelerating. On every level of every organization, software must fully and rapidly meet the needs of customers, employees and management. Software infrastructure must be designed to meet the specific needs of specific service verticals.
In most cases the software falls short. The service sector has gotten by with either multiple-point solutions, modified product-centric applications, or generic administrative ERP systems. These solutions are limited, costly and time-consuming. The right tools were never available.
Service organizations deserve more. They deserve software that is built for their needs, built for their specific vertical, and built from the foundation up for the speed of change that they demand.
Unit4 will gather service-industry customers, experts and influencers at its Connect conference in Amsterdam, April 5-6. Discussions will focus on how new technology designed for them can help service organizations better serve their people and their customers.