Think Beyond the Spreadsheet 3 Tools That Can Improve Your Operational Effectiveness

Think Beyond the Spreadsheet: 3 Tools That Can Improve Your Operational Effectiveness

Day-to-day operations are at the heart of every business. Employees, sales orders, processes, equipment, and tools keep a company running. Each of those pieces must often move like clockwork for a business to be successful. When interruptions or bottlenecks appear, they can lower productivity, disrupt business functions, and compromise security and safety. 

Running their companies efficiently and smoothly is a top priority for business owners. And this task couldn’t be more critical at a time of growing online threats and complex compliance standards. Below we’ll discuss three tools that can boost a company’s operational effectiveness while keeping it secure.

1. Governance, Risk, and Compliance Software

Consumer privacy laws, ransomware threats, and the risk of data breaches make operating in the digital age increasingly complex. However, network technologies like the internet aren’t solely to blame. People and processes are the other factors that can expose businesses to risks and compliance issues.

Say your company builds cell towers and leases the equipment to other businesses and wireless carriers. Your goal is to complete the towers’ construction with as few costs as possible, so you can maximize profit. But operating in this industry means you must comply with municipal, state, and federal regulations.

Your focus on lean construction processes and costs isn’t necessarily the wrong approach. However, it caused the company to choose subpar equipment in the past. The equipment was not only below industry standards, but the federal government also outlawed it because of national security concerns. The company had to go through the painful and expensive process of replacing each tower’s radio equipment.

Governance, risk, and compliance solutions help evaluate technologies, human oversights, and processes that create business vulnerabilities. Also known as GRC, this approach looks at a company’s operations as a holistic system. Instead of raising the red flag on a single procedure, a GRC tool shows how entire operations create potential risks. Owners and managers can then clearly identify methods and decisions that may not be in the company’s best interests.

2. Inventory Management Systems

Companies that sell products must find ways to house, move, and track inventory. Your operations also depend on internal supplies and equipment, even if your business doesn’t sell tangible products. You’ve got to keep tabs on your company’s assets, such as computers, software licenses, and office materials. Otherwise, inventory shrinkage or loss might get out of control, and the sources may be challenging to determine.

Inventory shrinkage can quickly become expensive, and the sources may point to larger security concerns. Some research reveals employee theft and shoplifting cause 78.3% of inventory loss. Math and paperwork errors account for 15.4% of cases, while vendor fraud leads to 3.7% of them. Another 3.9% comes from unknown causes that companies can’t trace, sometimes because of poor or insufficient processes.

Inventory management systems help improve a business’s inventory tracking, monitoring, and control processes. These applications also sync asset and product distribution changes as a company increases its locations. You can see where products and other assets are in real time, including how much value they represent. Inventory management systems also automate calculations, such as purchase and depreciation costs, which can help determine where shrinkage occurs. 

When you have more than one warehouse that receives and ships products to multiple stores, it’s difficult for spreadsheets to keep up. For non-retail businesses, spreadsheets aren’t dynamic enough to trace where company-issued laptops and mobile devices are going. You need an automated system that efficiently manages stock levels and assets and doesn’t require constant human intervention.

3. Customer Relationship Management Applications

Is your business still managing its customer base with spreadsheets? Besides being time-consuming, this approach might expose your company to security and privacy concerns. Because spreadsheets require continuous data entry and manipulation, they may contain out-of-date information. You may have people in your spreadsheet who are no longer customers or don’t want to receive certain communications.

For instance, some clients might want to opt out of marketing-related or promo emails. Someone would have to create a column in your spreadsheet to indicate this. Plus, marketing would be responsible for manually going through the spreadsheet to determine whom they should take off their list. Then there’s the issue of sharing and storing the spreadsheet, including managing employee access and complying with privacy regulations.

Customer relationship management applications streamline client data, communication preferences, and information security. A CRM app allows you to restrict employee access and grant different permission levels. For instance, sales and service staff may need view and edit permissions to add or change client information. However, they probably don’t need admin access that allows them to add or delete users or integrate other programs.

The capabilities of CRM software extend to marketing communications, including email lists. Say a customer receives promo messages each month, but they no longer want to see them. They can unsubscribe, automatically removing them from marketing’s contact list. While their information will stay in the database, the CRM app will also record the customer’s actions. Employees will immediately see why that client doesn’t receive promo emails. 

Tools for Boosting Operational Effectiveness

Achieving operational effectiveness involves finding and implementing best practices that improve quality, efficiency, or performance. Software applications are critical tools that help companies execute best practices. While spreadsheets may have cut it in the past, they can now become a barrier to compliance, productivity, and security. More dynamic solutions, such as GRC software, inventory management systems, and CRM applications, remove the operational hurdles that may jeopardize business success.

John Norwood
John Norwood is best known as a technology journalist, currently at Ziddu where he focuses on tech startups, companies, and products.