Change can be intimidating – but ultimately you are putting more at risk by holding on to ageing technology and processes.
As the retail energy industry matures, the systems and processes that worked in 2002 – or even 2012 – often no longer make sense. Our products and regulations have changed, as have our processes and resources. But often, suppliers are still sticking with the platforms – whether a product or a SaaS solution – that they implemented when their business was first founded.
Of course, they have implemented enhancements and customizations along the way. But whether it is your CIS platform, CRM or pricing and forecasting tools, at some point you will likely outgrow your systems. We all know this to be true, yet often it feels near impossible to make the case for replatforming. So why is this so difficult? And what can you, as a leader, do to make – and win – the case to transform your systems?
Usually, front line staff are most aware of the problems associated with your current system. However, because of hard work and a ton of manual manipulation, fundamental processes may continue to work. Customers are still getting enrolled and bills are going out the door. It becomes extremely challenging to make a case for spending millions of dollars when customers are not screaming complaints and revenue is still rolling in.
What is often not clear is that, while the business may be limping along, it is not achieving all it could. There is no ability to grow and there are likely gaps creating revenue loss and customer dissatisfaction that are just not big enough to draw attention – yet.
In such scenarios greater visibility is key, as problems are usually hidden. Implementing a set of primary operational and technical performance metrics is an important step towards seeing what is really happening within the business. How often are customers being undercharged or errors caught too late to rebill? How many contracts are started too late, resulting in a shortened term? Is your team struggling with a slow, lagging system? Most importantly, are you realizing the margins you expected at deal close?
Determining the answers to these questions will be critical in making a strong business case to change your systems.
Every operational leader has heard this statement from their upper management. Traditionally, implementing a new CIS or CRM required a massive effort and could take years and millions of dollars. However, given the greater availability of SaaS and cloud-based options, a gradual conversion is possible.
Most CIS shops also have modular offerings that will allow you to convert the most important elements (e.g. billing vs. EDI) without having to make a full-blown change. A systems integrator can also be helpful to define an approach that will minimize production interruptions for your business while efficiently moving you onto a new platform. They can also temporarily manage your operations to prevent your team from having to run two systems simultaneously.
One thing is certain: very few systems issues will resolve themselves. Once you have identified that you need to make a change, waiting is rarely the right answer. It is a much easier to embrace change while everything is still working rather than when you are mired in an emergency situation. Likewise, waiting until your current systems contract is about to expire will typically lead to a rushed conversion that could have long-term negative impacts.
Better to start the system evaluation process early. Give yourself a year or more to determine your best option. Seek out partners who can help you along your change journey, Finally, do not be afraid of change.