Is a Software Hairball Choking Your Business?

February 4, 2014

We recently launched our latest software hairball video(opens in new tab) along with a new Hairball Elimination(opens in new tab) Kit(opens in new tab) to humorously increase awareness of the wasteful habit among growing and mid-sized businesses to compile disparate and siloed systems over time. The idea is to help these companies self-diagnose the “ailment” we call Software Hairball Syndrome (SHS).

Identification of SHS as a critical business issue may fly under the radar for many companies because it affects multiple functions and strategic areas of the business. Some people may become resigned to contending with the lack of business and database integration(opens in new tab), even though SHS can choke their business performance.

But as outlined in our Hairball Elimination Kit, SHS is a curable ailment. In fact, NetSuite has already helped thousands of companies around the globe get rid of their software hairballs and become more efficient, competitive and profitable. How can you tell if your business has a software hairball? The symptoms usually manifest in four key areas.

Four Key Areas Affected by SHS

1. Customer Satisfaction and Service
The lack of a single, universal database for all customer records keeps a company from providing the simplest and most positive experience for customers. It prevents customer-facing reps back from having real-time visibility into customer transactions, support issues, and the order, inventory, fulfillment and payment status of customers. 

Furthermore, customer satisfaction can be damaged if orders are processed slowly and errors occur. Yet that’s almost inevitable for SHS sufferers with wasteful order management processes that require data to be manually re-typed from CRM and ecommerce systems into order management and inventory databases, and yet again into accounting records.

2. Revenue Growth
Business growth is hindered by a lack of timely data visibility for sales and marketing employees. Sales reps are not properly armed with the tools they need to effectively renew customers, and lose out on opportunities for upsell and cross-sell. Marketers can’t measure ROI accurately because lead activity data is stored in a database separate from customer transaction data, with no database integration in place. They have no easy way to perform customer segmentation analysis and pull targeted lists of their leads and customers from direct marketing campaigns. 

3. Timely Business Visibility
Executives can’t get real-time, cross-departmental insights into how their company is performing because each department owns its own system, with poor or nonexistent software integration(opens in new tab) and database integration across the business. Executives are relegated to guesswork and cumbersome spreadsheets in assessing performance across multiple areas, and lack the agility to respond quickly to new business challenges and opportunities.

4. Employee Productivity
SHS causes productivity across the business to suffer, as each of these irrational processes slows other processes in a vicious circle. Time is wasted entering data from one system into another—and more time is wasted fixing errors that inevitably occur with manual data entry. Employees spend time on unnecessary, low-value manual tasks, rather than on strategic, value-added activities that can help the business grow. 

Order management, fulfillment and revenue recognition processes are a few of the key processes hindered by SHS. IT is another. Companies with SHS need to maintain sizable IT staffs to attempt to make the hairball of disconnected systems work together. IT personnel waste time and money re-integrating these systems as product upgrades are implemented, and fixing those fragile patches when they break. On top on that, IT is tasked with managing the servers, storage and software upgrades necessary with on-premise applications—at considerable expense.

Meanwhile, business analysts struggle against this absence of business integration by running reports from multiple databases and then trying to match various data sets one another, causing data integrity problems and delays in delivering to business managers the information they need to make decisions.

What causes companies to repeatedly make the architectural errors that drain efficiency from their business? Siloed departmental thinking is a major culprit. Without leadership from executives, departments often attempt to address an immediate pain point by buying or building a new system. However, these “quick fixes” often lead to wasted money, wasted time and new pain points, and get in the way of the department’s longer term priorities. Even worse, they create issues in other departments and further obscure business visibility.

While our new software hairball tools(opens in new tab) can help companies self-diagnose cases of SHS, it takes business leaders with strategic vision to implement the unified business management and business integration software needed to reach its full potential and scale for growth efficiently and effectively.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.