No matter the size of your business, innovation is essential. Looking for ways to bring innovation into your business can offer huge returns – cost savings due to greater efficiency, faster growth due to better decision making, improved retention of talented staff, and a number of other benefits. In a study performed by the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (“ACCC”) “Colleges and Institutes and Canada’s SMEs (Small to Medium-Sized Enterprises): A Partnership for Innovation”, we find the following statement, “The capacity and ability to innovate is a critical determinant for productivity and growth.” And critical it is. In these economic times, where every business has had to take another look at how it does business just to stay in business – incorporating innovation into your business is even more essential.
But for the small to mid-size enterprise, injecting new innovative processes into your business can be a challenging objective. When you’re flat-out busy just trying to get business done; how do you go about taking a step back to think about innovative ways to improve and grow - and ensure you survive? Where do you start?
The good news is that innovation doesn’t have to mean abandoning what you are doing to bring in a revolutionary new process. You can achieve great things in smaller incremental steps. As stated further in the ACCC study, “Innovation is defined as applying new ideas in a way that produces new value for the organization. New ideas do not mean 'new to the world'. New ideas mean 'new to the organization'.” It can be as simple as this: take one existing process and find small ways to improve it. As you’ll see, the benefits reaped from that one decision can lead to other innovative decisions.
For instance, let’s take a look project cost tracking. Many SMEs track actual project costs in a variety of applications and documents – a financial accounting system, spreadsheets, job tickets, paper timesheets, invoices, etc. By looking at the workflow and purpose of these documents and the associated costs, you can often uncover inefficiencies. Eliminating or improving those inefficiencies will affect your bottom line. So, if you are a project-based business, here's a key way to adopt innovation in your organization - periodically, look at your project cost management software with an objective eye and evaluate the W5 of your system, its processes and its information value:
- What is the process and the information intended to do, or provide an answer to?
- Why are the process and the information needed? What decisions do they affect?
- Where is the information coming from and where is it going?
- Who gathers the information, and who needs the information?
- When is the information needed?
And the final question.....
- How is the project cost management system working? Where and how do we improve?
In future blogs, we’ll take a closer look at how one of our customer’s broke down their project cost management system and found ways to innovate and to improve their projects’ profitability. Stay tuned....