"Technology is great when it works." ~ Every Business Owner, Everywhere
This phrase has been used since the invention of the internet. With all of our technology advances over the years the reliability of "up time" has dramatically increased, but we now face another issue: silos.
In tech terms, a silo is a system containing important business data that is not (or cannot be) connected to other systems within the same business. This causes many issues including duplicate information, inefficient operational processes, and high technology spend, just to name a few.
Most startups and small businesses create the silo issue unintentionally, and silos eventually become obstacles to the agility of your business.
Silos pop-up innocently, and it typically goes something like this...
"We need a website and my brothers friend has a cousin who can build one cheap!"
Silo #1 - Wordpress or Wix
"We need to invoice customers and keep our accounting in good shape. Everyone says Quickbooks is the best."
Silo #2 - Quickbooks
"Email is important and we want to look professional."
Silo #3 - Office 365 or GMail
"The marketing seminar I just attended said we need to be on social media."
Silo #4 - Facebook
Silo #5 - LinkedIn
Silo #6 - Twitter
"We need a newsletter to stay in touch with our customers!"
Silo #7 - Mailchimp or Constant Contact
"We need to organize, track and report on our business information."
Silo #8 - Microsoft Excel Spreadsheets
You can see how quickly and innocently it gets out of control. Each system functions independently and does a specific job well. However over time, more systems are added, more data is gathered, and problems arise.
The result is critical information about customers being captured in too many places, collected in different formats, and most likely inaccurately saved.
The danger? The small business owner making important business decisions based on bad data and thus the company struggles.
How to overcome the silo issue
We want to help you break down silos so your tech systems operate with one another without duplication of processes or information.
Many of your tech systems offer "integration" with other systems, however most small business owners do not have the skills to make this happen. Here are 3 easy steps to begin breaking down silos:
1. Audit and create an inventory of every tech system used by your company.
What programs do you use for marketing? Bookkeeping and finance management? Website management? Sales and customer support?
*You have more than you think you do, and you are most likely spending more than expected. Capture them all.
2. Identify redundant or outdated systems and update or eliminate them altogether.
For example, Dropbox, Google Drive and OneDrive do the same thing: save files to a cloud server.
*If you're paying for multiple services that accomplish the same goals, but only using one consistently, update and eliminate.
3. Determine which systems have integration possibilities and follow the vendor recommendations or hire a consultant to help.
For example, there are multiple ways to integrate social media marketing platforms in a way that allows all systems to be managed from one place. Our favorite to use is Zoho Social.
If you focus on bookkeeping for your small business, integrate your bookkeeping with your CRM software or your email marketing software.
Essentially, tech integration is key to an agile business flow.
4. Cleanse your data by using de-duplication features (if available).
*Any data that you have collected in more than one place should be cleaned up, and all future data should be stored in a central location.
Ultimately, your small business systems should flow together in an integrated way in order to scale.
Flow Business Systems has integration consulting services and recommends the Zoho Suite of products due to its amazing integration tools.