How to Choose the right platform for Operations

In this post, we will have a look at the key principles you should consider to choose the right platform to run your process

As someone who has been on the side of companies with massive operations, I can tell that it's always a mess inside. There are so many nuances to running a great process that the work never ends. You constantly keep tweaking every bit of it forever, either to support that new use case or reduce your cost or to make your customer a little bit happier.

When you are running operations, you know how difficult it is to understand what is going on and maintain a high quality output consistently. It only gets more difficult as you scale and the complexity of your process increases.

That's why it is very important to have the right technology platform supporting your operations. As my ex-boss would say, you always go from People, Process to Product. Product comes last but the product is supposed to bring in the quality and efficiency that People and Process are not able to bring.

In this post, we will have a look at the key principles you should consider to choose the right platform to run your process.

Objectives - What do I want to achieve?

Before we jump into solutions, it's good to look at the problems we are trying to solve. No matter what kind of process you run, your key metrics fall under one of these buckets:

Volume - The number of tasks or orders you are executing in a given day

Quality - Quality of execution. This is not just whether the process is successful but whether it is done in a way it is supposed to be done.

Time - Time taken to complete the task

Variety - Different types of processes in your workflow. Most businesses have more than one workflow.

Cost - Cost of running one task or order

We have written a different post on choosing the right metrics for your process.

Now, keeping these in mind, my ideal state would look like this.

  • I am able to easily identify and adapt to an increase or decrease in no of orders per day.
  • Irrespective of the task numbers and variety, there are enough checks and balances to ensure every single order is executed in the right manner
  • I have the lowest TAT possible to complete the order with quality, coz time is money
  • While I have different processes or variations of the same process, I am able to manage the execution without major training processes or lapse in quality.
  • Run the entire process in the most cost effective way - Both financially and from customer exp.

If you have the foresight of setting it up right the first time, you are most likely to scale efficiently and business shocks in terms of process changes will not affect you significantly.

What do we look for in the Operations Platform?

Let's look at some of the key principles that one needs to consider before choosing a platform to work with.

Ability to Customize Easily

One of the fundamental truths of running Operations is that your process will change. What you do with 10 people will be different from 50 which will be different from 100 or 1000. Your process will keep changing throughout the life of the company.

You will have a different process for day vs night or city 1 vs city 2 or premium customer vs a normal customer. Your ability to manage all of these using the same team at scale will determine your success as a company.

One of the superpowers of great companies is their ability to keep tweaking their new process as and when they need to. Most companies fail at this even when they build their products internally because you will have fight for priority with your engineering and you have to go through the entire development process to get it done.

When you look for your operations platform, identify the ways in which you can tweak your process without any external help in a matter of hours not days or months.

Control over your workflows

Whatever you do, make sure people follow your process to the T. Because otherwise, you cannot promise the quality which will directly affect your customer experience. Most small companies get away with it because they have limited number of people and it is possible to closely monitor every step of the process. But the moment you scale beyond 10 people, without the right system level validations, your process will not go according to the plan.

From a platform POV, it may seem like the ability to have control is orthogonal to the ability to customize. Believe me, it is not. These two processes fundamentally go hand in hand to create the right execution platform.

So when you look for products, make sure they provide you control over your process every step of the way. Some examples are,

  • Is your team scanning the right QR code when they pickup an item?
  • Is your agent actually at the customer's location before you send an SMS to the customer that the agent has arrived?
  • Is your team taking the picture of the documents in the right manner before submitting for verification?

You cannot plan for these different use cases upfront. A growing business discovers new use cases every single day. The platform you choose should be capable of adapting to such new use cases as the business grows.

Integration with your core systems

Operations does not run in isolation. It is tightly integrated with the rest of the systems in a company. Eg.,

  • A delivery task is created once a customer places an order. So, the internal order management system needs to talk to the delivery system
  • Send an SMS to the customer when the sales person is on her way to meet the customer
  • Update the internal system once the order is delivered so the CC team can inform the customer if there are any queries
  • Collect payment at the customer's location for any payment on delivery use cases.

The platform that is adopted needs to have a core API focus to ensure integration with any such internal systems or external SaaS solutions is easy.

Monitor

Monitoring mainly addresses how to execute the day to day operations. Companies have very unique ways of setting up their teams. It can be based on area, country, product types, use cases or a combination of all of these.

The platform should have the flexibility to support any and all of these use cases easily and give the complete flexibility to the management team.

This also involves knowing at all times where the team is and be alerted of any change in status quo and possibly take corrective actions automatically. Great products provide these abilities natively that they creatively let you manage your teams better.

Measure

This is quite underrated in most platforms but something that is solved when the products are built internally. Key to running a quality process is to constantly understand the bling spots and tweak the process to address those blindspots constantly.

Without good measurement tools, this ability to rapidly learn and iterate tends to diminish and the business loses its competitive edge.

Unfortunately, the absence of such a capability is not easily noticed until people see what they have been missing.

Superpower your ops

Imagine you have such a platform at hand to manage your process. You will be unstoppable at growing and scaling your business.

If you can relate to the theme above and is interested in exploring such a platform, you should talk to us.

Zorp is the technology platform for operations that is built to accommodate the unique and changing needs of your business.

We believe every business is unique and your processes will evolve as you grow. We provide the end to end technology suite for you to manage your entire operations without the need to build anything internally.

If you like the content here, we write about basics of running operations and using products to manage them better. You can subscribe for more updates. You can also reach out to me at bala at zorp.one or DM me on linkedIn or Twitter.