By Ken Drazin, Consultant
Over the past year, I have had the opportunity to work with some of our smaller clients. You may sit there and think to yourself, “Smaller clients are the easier ones.” Well in most cases that assumption would be totally inaccurate. During my time with these clients I have found one thing to true, the smaller clients are just as complex if not more complex as a large corporation. However, these clients come with a unique blend of challenges.
Lack of formalized processes – in a lot of smaller companies, there seems to be a lack of formalized processes which leads to systems that are way more complex than they need to be. There may be two programmers who choose to develop a system or database in their own style, which is the complete opposite of other systems that the organization uses. While this is not an issue at the time the system is implemented, it will become one when the company has the need to integrate this new system with other processes.
Knowledge transfer gaps – Often there is one person in charge of a department or one person that runs multiple departments in small companies. This employee ends up working at the company for years collecting all sorts of important business knowledge. While this is great, it is important to remember that this person may either leave the company or be on vacation at times when this business knowledge is needed. On the flip side, smaller companies often rely heavily on outside consulting firms that end up not transferring the knowledge they have gained while consulting. These companies should treat this business knowledge as an asset and must have a process in place that documents all business rules and processes in every department.
Reliance of legacy software – Another issue I have run into in some small organizations is the strong reliance on legacy software. Companies are either unaware of newer feature rich software or lack the knowledge of how to implement and leverage them.
All of these issues are easy to overcome as long as you look out for them upfront. So when you sign on a smaller client be sure to ask the extra questions and do a little more business discovery with them, it will pay off in the long run for both you and your new client.