Essent Webinars: Planning for Technology that Sets You Apart

Successful companies are successful because they do things differently -- better -- than the competition. And since technology is integral to every part of business, companies need a plan to align technology to what makes them successful

Watch the Tech Planning Webinar

Slide 1: Making Technology a Part of the Plan
Hello and welcome to the latest webinar from Essent. Today we’re going to show you how to make technology a part of the plan to improve operations. Technology touches every part of business, so technology needs to be a part of every plan. The goal of technology planning is to continually align software with business so that the business and technology continually improve together.

Slide 2: Moderator: Douglas B. Brill
My name is Doug Brill. I’m the Essent marketing coordinator and I specialize in the promotional products industry. I’m also your moderator today.

Slide 3: About Essent
Before we begin, a very brief overview of Essent. Essent is the leader in providing Comprehensive business management solutions since 1981. Essent has been serving Distributors, Decorators, and Suppliers in the promotional products industry since the year 2000. $3 Billion in Commerce flows through Essent’s solutions each year.

Slide 4: If You Have Questions
We want to answer everyone’s questions in a way that’s sensitive to everyone’s time, and we do aim to wrap up within half an hour. So if you do have questions we ask that you please submit them in the webinar dashboard. And then we’ll be happy to answer those questions offline after the webinar has ended.

Slide 5: Every company is a technology company.
Every company today is a technology company. And that’s because technology is a major part of almost everything a company does.

Slide 6: Every Company is a Tech Company
Companies count on technology to manage customers. To manage the back office. It’s almost impossible to imagine companies doing Order Entry, Accounting, and all the other steps of the order lifecycle without technology. Technology is obviously necessary for ecommerce. And companies are increasingly using integration technology to enhance relationships with trading partners. It’s hard to name a part of business that isn’t touched by technology.

Slide 7: Technology needs to be a part of every plan.
And since technology touches every part of a business, technology needs to be a part of every plan. By continually aligning technology with operations, the company helps ensure that the business and technology both continually improve together.

Slide 8: Presenter: Chimaine Shadd
And here to bring you a closer look is your presenter, Chimaine Shadd. Chimaine is a sales coordinator for Essent. And she’s also a specialist in the promotional products industry. Chimaine is going to illustrate the advantages of making technology planning an ongoing, regular part of business planning.

Slide 9: Making Technology a Part of the Plan (continued)
Thank you very much, Doug. Today we’re going to illustrate some of the ways to make technology a part of business planning so that companies can automate and integrate the things that make them successful.

Slide 10: Business Planning
When companies make plans, they examine a few common things. They’re looking at budgets Sales and marketing strategy Changes to operations In general, they’re looking at the activities to start, stop, or continue.

Slide 11: Technology Planning
The most forward-thinking and progressive companies are also planning for technology. They’re looking at what their business does and what it wants to do in the future. They’re looking at what the technology does now and what it needs to do in the future. And they’re planning a roadmap to align technology with current and future business needs.

Slide 12: Elements of a Technology Plan
Working with your technology provider is one way to plan for better technology and, ultimately, better business. Business Analysis takes a fresh look at a company’s business processes and how to automate them. Software Development Plans enhance the functionality of software so that it automates even more of what sets you apart. And Integration Analysis & Matchmaking extends the planning to your partners. Distributors, decorators, and suppliers can connect to automatically share the information that moves business forward.

Slide 13: Business Analysis
First, let’s take a look at Business Analysis. Business Analysis is an opportunity to take a fresh look at the way a company does business, and then align technology with it.

Slide 14: Business Analysis (continued)
Business analysis comes down to three central questions. What does the business do? What does the software do? What can the business and software do together?

Slide 15: Business Analysis: Business Operations and Technology Capabilities
To illustrate the value of Refresher Analysis, let’s take a quick look at the business-technology relationship. At the beginning, the business has its operations. The technology has its capabilities. And you find the best way that they work together.

Slide 16: Business & Technology Evolution
But what happens next? Both the business and the technology evolve over time. The Business adds clients, staff, processes, services and more. The software provider adds features, functionality, best practices, solutions and more. Yet companies rarely pause to evaluate how the improved business and the improved software can work together in improved ways.

Slide 17: Business Analysis: Business Operations & Technology Capabilities (continued)
So the business remains right where it started. It’s using the technology the way it did from the get-go. And that probably still works. But the business and technology are both improved now. So is it working the best it can?

Slide 18: Business improves. Technology improves. How can they improve together?
By continually looking at what the business does and what technology does, you continually look at the best ways business and technology can work together.

Slide 19: Business Analysis Pyramid
When getting started on Business Analysis, it helps to think of your business in terms of the parts that make up the whole. You have activities, which are like the building blocks of your business. An activity could be something like emailing a quote and following up. Then those activities come together to form a process. Quoting and following up could be part of a larger sales process, for example. And finally those processes come together to form the business. The strength of the processes is the strength of the business.

Slide 20: Business Analysis Pyramid Highlighted
So when analyzing a business, you can look at the business from the bottom up, starting with the activities that make up a process. Or you can look at the business from the top down, looking at processes within the business.

Slide 21: What does the business do?
Ultimately, both are approaches to answering the first central question of Business Analysis: What does the business do?

Slide 22: Business Analysis: Fits vs. Gaps
The next step is to determine what the technology does. It looks at how the technology fits the current operations. If a company wants to automate a task and the technology already does it, then it’s just a matter of using the software to do it. The Business Analysis also identifies where the software doesn’t fit the operations. There are always gaps because no software platform is designed to automate all the operations of every business.

Slide 23: Filling Gaps
When a gap is discovered, the company has a few options to fill it. A Gap can be filled with a manual process. If the software doesn’t automate job costing, for example, someone can do it manually on a spreadsheet. The gap can also be filled with more software. Functionality that’s not available in a basic edition might be available in an enterprise edition. There’s also the option of software development. If the functionality doesn’t exist, the technology provider can create it.

Slide 24: What does the technology do?
Looking at the fits and gaps answers the second central question of Business Analysis: What does the technology do?

Slide 25: Finding Fits & Gaps in Your Business Analysis
Whether you’re finding fits or gaps, the Business Analysis process is designed to identify how the technology fits the business and how to make technology fit more of the business.

Slide 26: What can the business and technology do together?
Business Analysis answers the question: "What can the business and technology do together?"

Slide 27: Making Analysis a Part of the Plan
Here’s how to make Business Analysis a part of the plan. Companies can simply perform their own Business Analysis using either the top-down or bottom-up approaches that we mentioned. Businesses can also seek Business Analysis through a technology provider. Technology providers who deliver software as a service usually have business analysts on staff to perform this type of service.

Slide 28: When is the Right Time for Analysis?
So when is the right time for Business Analysis? Any time a business is adopting a new technology platform is a good time to undergo analysis. But the analysis shouldn’t stop there. Companies should consider ongoing Business Analysis to continually align technology and operations. Especially after two or more years since adopting a technology platform, the technology and business are both likely to have changed and improved. And so it makes sense to take another look at how they work together.

Slide 29: Ideally, Business Analysis occurs on a regular, annual basis.
Ideally, Business Analysis occurs on a regular, annual basis. It’s like going for an annual checkup to make sure technology and operations are working together the best they can.

Slide 30: Software Development Plans
Another way to align operations and technology is a Software Development Plan. Software Development Plans are the way to enhance software – to make it do things that it couldn’t do before.

Slide 31: Software Development Plans (continued)
Every company has its own activities and processes that create the value of the business. In other words, no two companies are exactly alike. Successful companies are successful because they do things differently – better – than the competition. So successful companies need technology to automate what sets them apart.

Slide 32: Standard Software
But what happens when you have standard software? Plenty of software exists with plenty of functionality. But it’s popular because almost everyone implements it. So at the end of the day, implementing standard software makes a company just like everyone else.

Slide 33: Standard Software: What Does it Do?
So now what does a company do when it wants to automate the activities and processes that set it apart from the competition? The company has to work within the confines of the standard software. The company can also create manual processes outside of the software, but that defeats the purpose of automation.

Slide 34: Software Development Plans
Software Development Plans identify how to enhance existing software. It’s the way to identify, design, and develop new features and functionality for the software.

Slide 35: Software Development Plans: What Do They Do?
Essentially, the business and technology provider examine how to create a new software solution. The first step is to define the new functionality step-by-step. Specifically, just what is the new functionality? Then the automation is defined step-by-step. Specifically, how will the technology provider design the new functionality in the software? And the result is ultimately a development design or proposal that details how the technology provider will build the solution.

Slide 36: Software Development Plans: Directing and Controlling
With a Software Development Plan, a company directs and controls the development it wants performed. And the technology provider builds the solution, performing the development. A Software Development Plan is like temporarily hiring a team of developers to build the functionality you want.

Slide 37: Making Development a Part of the Plan
There are two ways to make Development part of the business plan. Once again, companies can perform it on their own. But not every company employs developers. And even companies who do might not employ developers as experienced as those with a technology company. The other choice is to contact your technology provider. While some technology providers might not offer Software Development Plans, consultative providers often do.

Slide 38: When is the Right Time for Development?
When adopting a new technology platform, it makes sense to adopt a Software Development Plan right along with it. No software platform automates every activity and process. A development plan lets you automate new parts of business as you go along. After a couple of years with a technology platform, a company may want to use a Software Development Plan to automate even more of its operations – especially if it has added operations.

Slide 39: Ideally, Software Development occurs on a regular, annual basis.
Like Business Analysis, Software Development ideally occurs on a regular, annual basis. It provides for the continuous improvement of a company’s technology.

Slide 40: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking
The third piece of technology planning to look at today is Integration Analysis and Matchmaking. Integration connects your technology to your customer’s or vendor’s technology for a more efficient relationship.

Slide 41: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking: Efficiency & Relationships
Plenty of strong relationships exist among distributors, decorators, and suppliers. These trading partners work together to create an efficient supply chain and exceed end buyer expectations – to the benefit of everyone involved. And integration further enhances these relationships.

Slide 42: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking: Connecting Systems
Integration works by connecting the systems of two different companies. These systems can then provide business information to one another. The systems then can send and receive information in real time. The results is the most efficient transaction possible. Instead of phone calls, emails, and manual processes, the integration automatically provides the information needed for business

Slide 43: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking: Exchanging Information
The information that can be integrated is naturally the information that’s most often required for business. It’s the information that trading partners spend the most time exchanging manually. It includes pricing and availability. Product catalogs. Product configuration. And order status.

Slide 44: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking: Purchase Orders
Trading partners can also integrate Purchase Orders. Shipping Notices Invoices. And more. If trading partners have information they want to share through integration, chances are there’s a way to integrate it.

Slide 45: Integration Advantages
Systems Integration improves transactions in three major ways. Integration makes it easier for buyers to buy. Integration greatly reduces the time and labor associated with each transaction. Integration enhances customer service.

Slide 46: The information needed to move transactions forward
By integrating price, availability, product catalogs, and configuration, the supplier seamlessly provides the information needed to start the transaction. This is what we mean by making it easier for buyers to buy.

Slide 47: The information needed to move transactions forward
Integration also reduces the time and labor required to process the order. It automatically provides the information that suppliers and distributors spend the most time exchanging manually.

Slide 48: Enhanced customer service throughout the supply chain
And by making a more efficient relationship between the supplier and distributor, integration also leads to increased customer satisfaction. It’s easier for suppliers to satisfy distributors, and distributors can more easily satisfy end customers.

Slide 49: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking: What and Who?
By making Integration Analysis and Matchmaking part of technology planning, companies explore how to integrate and who to integrate with. The analysis explores which systems can be integrated … … What information can be integrated. And the Matchmaking portion identifies trading partners who could become integration partners.

Slide 50: Integration Analysis & Matchmaking: Two Ways of Pursuing Integration
Once again, companies have two ways to pursue integration. They can determine information they would like to integrate and partners to integrate it with, and then build the integration. Or they can rely on a technology provider to find integration points and partners. The technology provider is likely experienced in building integrations, and has access to a wider network of companies who already want to integrate.

Slide 51: When is the Right Time for Development?
When beginning a relationship with a new trading partner, it is a good time to consider integration to make that relationship as seamless as possible. Also after a couple years of working with a trading partner, Integration Analysis can determine how to make that relationship more efficient.

Slide 52: Elements of a Technology Plan
As with Business Analysis and Software Development Plans, Integration Analysis & Matchmaking is ideally performed on a regular annual basis. That way, a company is continually exploring ways to create more supply chain efficiency.

Slide 53: Technology Planning
Altogether, we’ve looked at three ways to make technology a part of the plan for regular, continuous improvement. Since business evolves and technology evolves, Business Analysis takes a fresh look at how they work together. It matches technology to business as both move forward. Software Development Plans are the way to enhance software. As a company needs new functionality, it uses a Software Development Plan to get it built. Finally, Integration Analysis & Matchmaking makes a more efficient supply chain. By automatically and accurately sharing information in real time, companies drastically reduce the time and labor associated with communicating the information needed to advance transactions.

Slide 54: Technology Planning: Companies Know Their Businesses Best
Across all of these types of technology planning, we saw that companies can either undertake the plans themselves or turn to a technology provider. Companies know their business the best. Technology providers know the technology the best. Relying on a technology provider for to align business and technology makes sense. You then get the best of the business world and best of the technology world.

Slide 55: Technology Planning
And we also saw that each type planning can be performed at certain junctures. Namely, those junctures are when adopting a new platform, after a few years with that platform, or when undertaking a major new project. But ideally that planning occurs regularly and annually so that the relationship between business and technology is continually improved.

Slide 56: Technology planning: Regular consultation with your provider.
For the best relationship between business and technology, we recommend consulting with your technology provider on a regular basis through an annual plan.

Slide 57: Moderator: Douglas B. Brill
And with that I’m going to turn it back over to Doug, who will tell you how to learn more.

Slide 58: Plan for Technology that Sets You Apart
Thank you very much Chimaine. Essent is dedicated to creating efficiency in the promotional products industry and supports all of the capabilities discussed today. There you can find more about everything we discussed today, and also get in touch with an Essent representative for a free consultation about how your company can plan for an enhanced technology future. Again, that’s to learn more or set up a free consultation. Thanks again to everyone for attending today’s webinar. Plan for technology that sets you apart.