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Integrated vs. Siloed Small Business Software, Pt. 6: A New Perspective

Posted by Matt Woodward

Jun 30, 2014

a new perspectiveNow that we've effectively examined the implementation pitfalls, operational challenges and customer-relationship frustrations of using a silo-based business management system, it's time to discuss some alternatives to siloed small business software. As the pitfalls of silo systems continue to expose themselves in practical settings, the approach is quickly being recognized as imperfect and inefficient; a smarter, more capable and more versatile approach is long overdue. But in order to recognize and seize the opportunities on the horizon, you need to change your perspective.

Look At Your Business With Fresh Eyes

Think about your business: It's an enterprise – a complex, multifaceted machine with many moving parts – but it's still a cohesive unit, and it needs to function as such. Your employees, departments and even your software are all cogs in your business machine. When you view your business as a cohesive unit, it's immediately apparent why small business software silos are ineffective: The divide between the applications is in intrinsic opposition to the overarching unity you need to achieve.

Change Your Approach To Problem-Solving

Traditionally, businesses install software to solve an existing problem. (Admittedly, this is often out of necessity – fledgling businesses simply cannot afford to preemptively purchase a comprehensive small business software system right out of the gate.) A variation of the break/fix model, this approach is unconducive to solving, overcoming or avoiding future challenges. Break/fix solutions are also typically not the best options, because the urgency to solve an immediate problem is given priority over the need to thoroughly research and analyze possible alternatives. The results are notoriously short-sighted, poorly-developed plans that are ineffective over the long term and only moderately effective in the short term.

Instead of blindly following a reactive plan, try being proactive. Think about the current complexion of your business and where you'd like it to be. Your predictions don't need to be highly detailed, but they should feature a healthy mix of realistic expectations and ambitious aspirations. Think about:
  • What you want your enterprise to look like in the next 6 months, next year and next decade
  • What steps you should take to achieve those goals, and when they need to be completed
  • The needs and problems you'll face if your predictions are correct, and when they'll strike
Use these predictive points to evaluate potential decisions, actions, strategies and solutions before you go through with them. Ask:
  • Which decision is best aligned with the long-term goals you've set for your enterprise?
  • Does this action obstruct or accelerate your business along the path you envision?
  • What rippling effects and implications does this strategy have on the other aspects of your business?
  • Is the solution effective only in the short term, or is it also applicable in your predicted scenario?

From this perspective, it's obvious that siloed software doesn't quite fit the bill. It's too disjointed and too inept to get you to your desired result in an effective, streamlined way.

Rethink The Role Of Software

The role of small business software in your enterprise is, in essence, to make life easier. It should help you improve your performance, streamline your processes and maximize your efforts. Small business software is not just a tool to complete a task. You should view it as a partner, a division of your company and a facilitator of your success.

Traditionally, business management solutions were envisioned (and implemented) as loosely connected assemblies of standalone software. But these applications are not independent of one another – they're very intimately related, unified by a common purpose. Your business management system is built with multiple tools, but those tools should be so seamlessly integrated that you see and experience the overall system as indivisible. Is this an unrealistic expectation? Not with ERP software!

The Ultimate Integrative Solution: ERP Software

Seamless integration is difficult, if not impossible, to achieve with siloed software. But ERP software is the most comprehensive, integrative business management system available.

Your HR solutions and accounting systems no longer stand alone as independent tools, because they are built into the ERP software. Your business applications are connected not only in theory, but in reality, too: They're all ERP modules, fitting seamlessly into the framework of your central business management system.

Within a single interface, ERP software packages provide high-level overviews and drillable details on all of your small business applications. User- and role-specific dashboards are customizable so the most relevant data, KPIs, metrics and business insights are easily accessible at a glance.

Unlike siloed business software, ERP supports real-time updating: From order tracking and customer service to inventory management and distribution, ERP software ensures that you're never working with outdated data. And since all of your business applications are housed within the same system, any changes you make to one tool are immediately reflected in the others.

Because a silo-based business management system is physically disjointed, its performance is inevitably disjointed, as well. Conversely, ERP software provides seamless integration because it is seamlessly integrated; it operates as a unit because it is a unit. Your business stands to reap immense benefits from the superior capabilities of ERP software – to find out how, stay tuned for Part 7.

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Topics: business software, HR and payroll, erp software