These are several ideas for initiatives you could pursue in 2016 that stand a good chance of increasing profitability and growth at your company. These will not apply to all businesses, but do apply to many.
Idea #1: Productize Your Service Business
There are many ways to define "a service business", but I'd define it as the degree to which additional sales for your company requires additional headcount. An example might be an accounting firm: bringing on new customers means hiring more people. The alternative is selling a product like TurboTax where it basically costs you the same whether you sell ten copies or a million (but there are higher up-front development costs).
Are you a services business?
If so, are you absolutely sure you have to be? That is, could aspects of your service be captured in a product to drive down the marginal cost of each additional customer? If you are able to successfully do this, you will be able to achieve new levels of profitability and efficiency.
There is enormous potential in bringing software economics to new industries.
Idea #2: Connect with your users
This probably goes without saying, but your ability to give your customers what they want is directly linked to the success of your business.
It stands to reason, then, that businesses should connect with their customers directly to better understand their needs. Tools like Intercom.io
are making it easier than ever to connect with your users directly.
More strategically, by using something like Intercom.io or Salesforce.com to link customer service and product development, you create a strong feedback loop about where to focus priorities next.
Idea #3: Automate data collection with web scrapers
Every business has statistics that must be collected manually, often daily or weekly. Think of all the spreadsheets that need to be updated, shared, and e-mailed across your organization. Wouldn't it be nice if you could put all of that in a pile and automate them completely, freeing up all the time usually spent preparing them?
This is the idea behind most enterprise uses of "web scraping"--the act of writing computer programs to literally control a web-browser and "scrape" information into a more manageable database from the unstructured data of the web.
Most organizations are not aware of how much time can be saved by simply automating data collection and processing pipelines. Ask us how!
Idea #4: Move to open source (if you haven't already)
This is a big one. We are getting to a point where it is difficult to justify proprietary software like SAP, Oracle, or IBM when open source presents an alternative that is just as good--or in many cases, better.
Software licensing costs can become exhorbitant, and moving to a custom built system based on open source technologies can be a key cost saving measure.
That said, there are often advantages of proprietary software when compared to open alternatives. For instance, Adobe
make a range of products used by creative professionals that are unparallelled, particularly when compared with open alternatives.
One of the things our company does is help navigate these kinds of decisions, such as what technology stack should be adopted or how an existing one can be changed.
Idea #5: Hire more programmers
It's become cliche to say, "Software is eating the world." But it's true!
Programmers create software. They're finding their way into various industries all around the world and creating software that's eating those industries. To avoid being eaten, businesses should embrace software development as a key activity in their organization.
So in 2016, make it a point to go to more developer conferences, to meet more developers, to learn more about software development, maybe take a coursera class or two.
Using software to run better than your competition will help take your business to new and interesting places.