Are You Solving the Right Problem?

Why a simple Off-the-Shelf Solution is not always your best bet.

OK, I'll be honest! The fact that you are off reading a blog at all probably means something has stopped you from doing what you were doing! You may be looking for new ideas or a solution, and since it's our blog you are reading, it might be software, or data related. It's amazing the things in our working lives that deflect us, stop us from getting on.

That something could be a Pain Point. Maybe it's a constant niggle you want to get rid of? Something trivial that wouldn't take a lot of time and money to solve? Or maybe it keeps you awake at night? It could, of course, be both, at the same time.

Is your Friday Afternoon Niggle the symptom of a wider problem? Do other staff complain about it around the water cooler, or, the Post COVID equivalent, while waiting for the boss to show up in the Zoom Meeting, or idly chatting to Kim from Accounts before getting on to why that invoice hasn't been paid yet? Does something related to your niggle keep the CEO awake at night? (Clue, if it stops a number of you from working effectively, for long, it might well do!)

Hubspot Blog gives 5 kinds of Pain Point:

  • Productivity - e.g. staff spending too much time on data entry
  • Positioning - e.g. we need to take our activities online, rather than speaking to customers face to face.
  • People - e.g. low employee morale.
  • Process - e.g. we are not managing our employee's workflow effectively.
  • and Finally - Financial - we can't afford to keep the people we've got!

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that some of these things might be inter-related. And that whether it's a Productivity, Positioning, People, Process, or Finance issue may depend on whether you are talking to Operations, Marketing, HR, Engineering, or Finance.

About this point, it's easy to go online and order a THING, whether it's some Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) software or a new piece of equipment. And it's amazing how often this not only fails to solve the problem but makes it worse!

A wise man once said to me, "Typically, a small business buying a COTS solution will find it's not a perfect fit, and do one of two things. Engage the original provider to customise it and make it work for them, or adapt their working practices to the Software." Leading to a whole new batch of niggles for you and your team.

So, before you try to change that one little thing, it's sometimes worth giving it some more thought. Are there any other related niggles you have? How does it impact on other parts of the operation? What would your ideal solution look like?

At this point, what you could do instead is ask yourselves some searching questions, up and down the organisation.

Be ambitious! Be creative! Ask everyone from the people on the front line to the CEO to imagine what a perfect solution could look like. I like the Five Whys Approach.

For example, in the Data entry example above.

Ask yourselves, why staff are spending so much time? - Because they are entering the same data into several different systems.

Why are they entering data into several different systems? - Because the systems aren't joined up.

Why are the systems not joined up? Because they were bought at different times, off the shelf, by managers seeking to solve a single problem, which doesn't solve the real problem. (Clue: This is why you DON'T need yet another COTS system. Sadly, too many companies selling COTS Systems are like the proverbial man with a hammer, to whom every problem looks like a nail)

Why didn't they solve the real problem? Because we used to rely on people going out face to face, taking notes, thinking about it with human brains, and bringing the information back to the business for analysis. We don't do that anymore. It's all gone online, and we are not getting useful information from the customers.

Why are you not getting useful information from the customers? - Because "The System" isn't set up for it!

At this point, I would be asking myself why the staff had to enter the data in the first place! In the post COVID world, of online ordering, couldn't your customers enter it for free?

The ambitious solution in this situation might be a new online ordering portal, which analyses the information in the backend and sends the relevant parts to the relevant departments or teams.

One bespoke system, using custom Applications to direct information to the right teams, not several off the shelf ones cobbled together.

At Gamma Science, our Senior Engineers like nothing better than a knotty problem like this to address. With both backend, frontend, and system Architecture expertise, plus electronic design if needed, they are versatile and flexible. And the initial consultation with a Senior Engineer, won't cost you a penny.

This is why we create non-standard systems, for non-standard problems. Because sometimes even the best COTS system does not cure your pain! (Though if we know of one that will, of course, we'll tell you, we are good like that!)