In today’s world, a lot of things are being done in a brand-new way. Some of the fundamental relationships that have existed between people for many centuries are being changed by new technologies, and that’s going to have vast effects on how our economies function in future generations.
The digital age really does make a difference in how we live. A lot of these changes kind of go by unnoticed, but some of them are very familiar to business leaders, because of how they totally upend business models, and change the basic methods and techniques that businesses use to compute each other.
Consulting in the Middle Ages
Kings, and other leaders of business and commerce in pre-industrial eras, often relied on specially skilled individuals to help them make decisions. Many of these guildsmen were astronomers, who spent hours looking at the sky and from there, creating what you might call the ‘business models’ of those more primitive times. Astronomers, prophets and seers advised the wealthy and powerful on how to deal with landholdings, how to manage money, and all kinds of other administrative issues.
The problem with this, which pops up in a lot of popular films and books based on medieval history (picture the LoTR character Wormtongue whispering, wraith-like, into the king’s ear), is that these consultants weren’t always what they were cracked up to be. A lot of them influenced leaders to make some really bad decisions. The value of these prognosticators also lost a ton of its power as new science emerged, and we realized that there’s probably not a lot of useful information we can get from the stars, at least, about things like taxes and real estate.
Today’s Consulting World
Fast-forward a long way, to the 21st century, and what you have is a business community that that’s moving away from the whole idea of relying on specialists for information.
Just a few years ago, cloud computing and data analytics were not the hot buzzwords that they are today. Lots of business leaders in many industries chose to rely on consultants to help them make the big decisions, such as whether to open a new plant, expand the workforce, set out on some marketing or advertising campaign, or diversify products.
Many of these consultants claim to have special insight and special methods that help them to evaluate an enterprise in a comprehensive way. Again, just like with the medieval specialists, some of them do have some insight and skills — and some of them don’t.
Now, business leaders are realizing that they can do a lot more analysis and decision-making in-house, just by using advanced technologies that taking large data sets and spit out reports that show clearly and transparently what way is best for a business.
The Kitchen Nightmare
Another example of modern day consulting problems is super-dramatically chronicled in Gordon Ramsey’s popular “Kitchen Nightmares” TV show, as well as a spinoff, “Hotel Hell” where Ramsay brings his entrepreneurial eagle eye to the hospitalities industry. The model for each episode is fairly formulaic — the star comes in, evaluates the kitchen (or hotel) operation, and turns it around, from a depressing money-losing venture to an appealing, impressive success.
What emerges in many of these episodes is that a specialist, a head cook or chef, has convinced the business owner that he or she has just the right skills and experience, and the inside knowledge, to create a good menu and execute it well. When it’s time for Ramsey to walk- in, it’s often revealed that in fact, these specialists are serving up previously frozen entrées, cooking meat wrong, and storing food in dangerous and abysmal ways.
There are a lot of parallels here to other parts of the business world, where the products are composed of information resources instead of food. Just like a good head chef, the right consultant can guide the business toward success. A bad one can lead it to ruin. You’ll hear Ramsay, looking about and shaking his head, utter the words “It’s a business!” again and again, partly because, to a successful business person, there’s just no reason for someone to get so far into the weeds in operating a similar commercial venture. But that’s where the viewer gets let in on the secret, complete with knife-throwing visuals, clashing pans and dramatic segues: this business simply has the wrong specialists.
Being Your Own Consultant
Things like Apache Hadoop and large data centers are making their way from the pages of tech magazines to the pages of business magazines. That’s because there are so many obvious uses of these technologies for the modern enterprise.
Experts have coined the term –“business intelligence” to talk about real, actionable information that business leaders get from large data sets or other sources. It’s becoming popular to blend data analytics with neat visual interfaces that will display the results of large data sets at a glance, which will give the reader a really excellent view of what’s actually going on.
In the 1980s, an executive may have called a meeting with six or seven people, and had each of them prepare detailed spreadsheets (or ledger reports in the days before Microsoft Excel), showing sales results in a particular region. Then that executive, having heard all the pertinent information, would make decisions about scaling up or scaling down in each particular territory.
The way that many business leaders think about this now is that they turn on their computer, navigate a visual dashboard to a particular page, let’s call it “maps” — and simply look at where sales is happening, and where sales has slumped.
This same mammoth change applies to all of the many different aspects of operating a business. Essentially, computers are doing the work of many people, and making a lot of that labor-intensive reporting work redundant.
Making the IT Decisions
While these data processes may be doing away with jobs related to business reporting, there’s still a great demand for IT professionals in order to keep all of this stuff up and running.
Business leaders have two essential options — one is to build out an in-house IT staff to help set up and operate all of this software architecture. The second is to go with a cloud computing vendor.
Cloud computing is now in its glory. While you can think of cloud computing as vendor assistance, cloud computing providers don’t really offer assistance with decision-making. What they’re offering is help with the nuts and bolts of the software architecture itself.
You can contract with a cloud provider and get easy, safe places for data storage, and access to dashboard systems. You’ll still be your own consultant — you’ll be the one running the reports, parsing the data, and making decisions based on what you see.
Utilizing CRM Systems for Business Intelligence
One big area where leadership teams are relying on digital dashboard solutions is in the realm of Customer Relationship Management. Customer Relationship Management or CRM is business intelligence applied to a clientele. In other words, with CRM you figure out not only who your target audience is, but what they’ve been doing, what they’ve been buying, and what they think about your company and its products and services.
Another way to think about this is that CRM can also provide a life cycle dealmaking process, where you track a potential deal all the way through its design, with helpful features that show how much of a business profit is resting on a particular contract, what’s been done to shore up that contract, and what stage it’s currently in. Executives can use these systems to call the right people and deploy staffers accurately, to get more deals done and more contracts awarded.
Stride offers a CRM platform that works for small businesses, SMBs, and large corporations. Our easy-to-use dashboard shows viewers just what’s happening within a given company, and how to move deal processes forward. You’ll see transparent financial reporting, and get all of the names attached to a given project or deal.
Salespeople also love this platform because it gives them the background of customers when they’re on the phone or visiting in the field. With good CRM platforms, a sales professional is never at a loss for a name or a piece of contact information. This allows each member of the sales team to work with more confidence and poise, and deliver more impressive results.