The DataQuest partners had a quarterly retreat recently and one of the major decision areas was strengthening and streamlining our internal business tools. For a smaller boutique firm, we have a strong commitment to building thoughtful internal tools. These tools position us for growth, allow consultants to follow standard processes, and make onboarding much easier. For example, we just welcomed a new staff person to the team who made the comment that our internal tools have made it much easier for him to acclimate than he was expecting.
Why Build Internal Business Tools?
The reason we bother to define strong internal systems has to do with the principles of the eMyth (Entrepreneur Myth) book, which warns small business operators that if they can’t codify the “way” they do business and build easy-to-learn systems around their process, that they will not be able to scale and grow. Furthermore, without internal business tools in place, the product or service the business offers will be delivered inconsistently, because people will each do things their own way. Having some internal architecture helps people deliver a consistent service, keeps expectations clear, and helps staff people succeed.
Our Choices for Business Tools
Here’s a sampling of some of the business tools that we’ve build our services around that have helped us deliver a consistent experience.
- Acumatica. We’ve chosen to use Acumatica ERP as our primary source of information internally. That goes for our finances, billing information, CRM needs, projects, quoting and service delivery. At the retreat, Mark Binkley captured this decision perfectly when we were attempting to make a decision around where to keep certain information: “Everything should spring from Acumatica. Acumatica should be the primary keeper of everything we’re meant to be doing.” With its ability to integrate with other products and platform flexibility, it’s easy for us to keep this commitment.
- Confluence. This rich documentation and collaboration space has been incredibly valuable for our customers. It integrates with our help desk support system and allows customers to access deep documentation that relates to their own business systems and processes. It helps customers learn, and helps consultants share knowledge. This is one of the business tools that has dramatically changed the way we do business. We use it to share technical documentation of IMAN jobs, Sage Alerts & Workflow automations, Acumatica Go-Live steps, and more. Most of our service offerings include one Confluence license for customers.
- LastPass. We use LastPass with 2-factor authentication from Duo to store confidential information, notes and credentials. It’s also efficient for sharing information across teams. We do not send sensitive information over email or store it in Word documents.
- Slack. For a remote workforce, there’s nothing like Slack for greeting the team with a coffee cup emoji and asking questions throughout the day when an immediate answer isn’t needed. Slack has helped us do work asynchronously – just like the team at Basecamp espouses: “Real-time sometimes, asynchronous most of the time.” When used according to these excellent principles, group chat can help solve problems, reinforce community, and get things done quickly. And the mobile app is nice.
On this most recent retreat, we worked together to further define our systems for collaboration, projects, and growth. Just like with any growing business, we are continually evolving. We evaluate architecture, build systems, commit to them, and we use them to grow.
What are the tools that have helped your team grow with internal systems?