Tag Archives: Latent Need clients

Holding Back on Automation Projects to Save a Few Pennies Only to Lose Big Dollars

Rather than wish you would have done something differently, just do it differently. We have all been there—wishing we would have, should have or could have done something differently, realizing only after the fact that our missteps never needed to occur. As the founder of Ei Dynamics, I often find myself on the other side of the equation.  I frequently identify red flags and impending catastrophes for customers and potential clients even before they see the issues. I label these folks as the “Latent Need” people (which I covered in a recent blog post, “No Manual or Repetitive Processes Allowed … Most of the Time”).

Last year, when I encountered a Latent Need potential client who could have clearly benefited from Ei Dynamic’s products, I jumped at the chance to help him improve his construction business. Unfortunately, my “jumping” went over the potential client’s head. My explanation of the virtues of one aspect of our software that could monitor his company’s data and send automatic notifications to employees when an “exception” to certain business rules occurred left the potential client feeling like the product was interesting but not relevant to his company.

I know … epic fail on my part in terms of sales approach. I should have focused less on pitching our software and more on the potential client’s specific areas of needs. But, I couldn’t help myself. While I will leave my sales slips for another blog post, despite my poor approach, the construction owner truly could have benefited from additional automation for his construction company. And he soon found out why.

Cause for Alarm … and Automation

Six months later, I received a call from the company’s chief financial officer (CFO). The construction company had a problem: An employee transposed an extra zero on one of the project budgets in their construction management software. As a result, the project, which looked to be under budget, turned out to be over budget by nearly $150,000. The construction company’s assumed profit vanished before their eyes.

Automation can act like tiny alarm clocks, alerting us when an anomaly occurs. As I spoke to the CFO, I couldn’t help but gently remind him that I had recommended an automation tool six months ago that could have prevented this issue. By implementing a simple business rule that looked for anomalies, like an extra zero in a budget, someone would have been alerted long before it became a problem. Resisting the urge to act like a five-year-old and shout, “Na, nana, na, na, I told you so,” I listened to his needs and created a game plan to move forward.

What I helped the construction company, and countless others, realize is that automation is not always about eliminating keystrokes or reducing manual data entry.  Sometimes it’s about creating virtual eyes and ears—tiny alarm clocks all over the place that keep track of all the little things. The alarm clocks allow us to go about our daily business, alerting us of anomalies so that orange flags don’t turn into red ones and create business-crippling issues.

Risk vs. Reward

Most ironic about this case is that the construction company opted to pinch pennies and not incorporate Ei Dynamics’ automation tools into their business from the get-go. Automation is as much about risk avoidance as it is about saving hard dollars and reducing labor efforts. By pinching pennies, the construction Pinching pennies for short-term savings could lead to long-term losses.company lost nearly $150,000 due to an error that could have easily been flagged and then remedied with an investment in software costing less than $5,000.

Do you have time bombs in your organization waiting to go off?  Now might be the ideal time to re-evaluate areas of risk. I encourage you to start thinking about ways to reduce or eliminate risk by implementing a real-time alerting software or leveraging your current technology to provide extra monitoring.

When it comes to your business, pinching pennies in the short term might mean losing big money in the long term. Don’t wish you would have, should have, could have.

photo credit: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/could%27ve
photo credit: Alan Cleaver via photopin cc
photo credit: r-z via photopin cc

No Manual or Repetitive Processes Allowed … Most of the Time

There are generally three types of peple. I’m always fascinated by the conversations that I have with people when I attend trade shows. In fact, I would say most people fall into one of three categories:

1. Identified Immediate Needs: People who have identified pain in their organization.They know a solution exists, and they are actively looking to solve their problem.  They are eager to spark a conversation and engage.

2. Identified Needs but Unaware of a Solution: People who know they have a problem and may have even searched for a solution in the past but have not identified or found anything that appears to solve the problem.  These are difficult conversations to start. You really have to listen and try to get people to open up about what’s going on in their world. When you do, then you can determine if you might be able to identify their problems and, subsequently, if you can help them find solutions to their problems.  If you can solve their problems, these people are then usually open to further dialogue.

3. Latent Need: People who have a problem, but they don’t even realize they have a problem. Since they don’t know they have a problem, they are not even looking for a solution.  These are the toughest conversations— it’s almost like fishing or throwing mud up against the wall and hoping something sticks.

Oddly, I sometimes enjoy the conversations with people that fall into the third category, Latent Need, most.  Maybe it’s because I like the challenge, or I find the responses from people fascinating when I speak to them.

Realizing Repetition Is Right Before Your Eyes

At a recent trade show, I had the fortune of running into a Latent Need person.  A lady wandered up to our booth and asked me, “What do you guys do?”

I responded with our standard spiel: ”I work with CFOs, controllers and business owners to identify areas within your business where there are manual and repetitive processes. I then help determine if we can leverage our software to automate those processes, putting the cost savings from our automation either directly into your pocket or back into the company.”

Running reports collectively take up more time than companies realize.

She paused for a second and then retorted, “We don’t do anything manual or repetitive in our business.”

I responded,”Wow that’s great! So you already own software or have put systems in place that automate most of your processes?”

She looked at me almost cross-eyed and said, “No, we just simply do not do anything manual and repetitive. Everything we do is different.”

So I replied, “Do you run reports?”

“Yes,” she said

“Do you ever run the same report twice?”

”Of course. All the time,” she said.

To which I responded, “Hmmm…isn’t that a manual and repetitive exercise?”

A bit perplexed, she replied, ”Oh, I guess if you put it that way it sort of is.”

The moral of the story is that we all do manual and repetitive things whether we realize it or not. Am I saying that anything manual and repetitive is bad? No. In fact, there are some trivial manual things that we do that the cost and time to automate them would not be worthwhile.

Rethink Reports

With that said, when it comes to running reports, something that most all of us do, this is one area that actually takes up a lot more time collectively in most companies than many would think. Thus, if people are spending time and energy printing or previewing reports for no other purpose than to review them for anomalies or changes in key indicators, I would challenge them to rethink why they are doing this.  I would further argue that it makes more sense to write a business rule that mimics what is trying to be done visually when we review the report (i.e. highlight issues). Then, with a simple business rule, the report can be automatically generated and sent to the reviewer when there is an exception.  Since the report is only sent when there is an issue, the end user only spends time reviewing reports that demand further attention and action, saving time, energy and countless hours to boot.

Stop the Insanity

Automation is great, but in order to automate your businesses, you must first be able to identify what processes need automating.  If you have your head in the sand—you’re either ignorant about how people are working or you’re simply in denial—then you’re going never going to be able to move the ball forward and improve your business processes.

A continual goal for me and my em
ployees is for us to work faster, smarter and more efficiently. It should be your goal as well.  Albert Einstein said it best when he referred to insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  I say, “Stop the insanity!” Don’t keep doing things the same way month after month simply because it’s the only way you know how or because it’s the way you’ve always done it.

My challenge for you until my next post is to start identifying things that could be improved.  We’re not ready or looking to fix or solve anything yet. I’m merely asking you to take baby steps. Start by looking to gain some awareness of areas that might benefit from a little more automation.

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