John Murch

Does Your Company Have a Business Tools Department

28 Apr 2011
Does Your Company Have a Business Tools Department

Most likely not because I kinda made it up, but what could a business tools department be? Its a small team of 3 – 5 people (Designer, Developer, Product Manager/Tinker) who spend each month improving one aspect of a business arm. This team focuses on automation. Improving productivity of another part of the business.

Here is the concept/pitch: a small team at a mid-large business (or 1 talented guy at a startup) focusing on improving productivity. This could be automating reporting, expense calculations, or even just time submission. These tasks don’t take up too much time, but add up and should be streamlined in any business.

Recently I have become a Business Tool in a sense, focusing on a few tasks like this for uBlanket. Our process has become very streamlined since we started, but the tools to get the job done have not. These tools required hand typing or other semi-automatic tasks. Recently I have been coding away to help fix these features and now that UPS got their $H!% together, we now have a fully automated system for our process.

In the past at corporate positions I tried to automate myself out of a job. I can’t stand repetition when it can be done with a few lines of code. Unlike the 1960’s, everyone has a computer, better yet your dam iPhone has enough power to make some heavy calculations. All grunt work should be left to the machine. Problems are always occurring and in many cases, hiring a person is cheaper than defining the problem and getting it built in the short run, but what a waste. Businesses NEED to think long term. You don’t want a dog chasing tail problem for years. You want to learn as much as you can while it’s being built and plan for as much automation as possible when launched.

Back to this business tools department, the team should spend one month going to various arms of your company and solving one problem that can save time and/or money…. remember time is money :)

In addition, some of these items might be things that you “would like” but result in a larger understanding of problems both currently happening and future road blocks.

For example, say one of the problems to solve was to get a calendar (month over month) print-out of order volumes by each hour of each day. Seeing orders come in or month over month reports only gets you so far. Having a visual representation of the data (a full year of these reports) you can see various insights into the seasons as well as specific dates, days or hours depending on granularity. So maybe you need to adjust your advertising campaign to spend more Tuesdays and Sundays because those are the highest converting days for a customer.

If you are a startup, find a talented hacker to help the business side of your business become more automated. If you are a larger or mid business, hire a few hackers or reach out to your current employees with this pitch and see what you get back. Remember it’s okay to spend a few $$$ on R&D, especially if within a month you could be saving 3X$$$ in just labor!

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