Prototypes, Proof of Concepts, and Baby Steps

When I joined the company, we talked about all sort of systems that we would need to get up and running pronto.  Things like a CRM solution, subscribing to a sales suite like salesforce.com, etc.  I made the rather bold statement that we should just use some spreadsheets to track things.  There were several reasons that I thought that this was the right way to go:
    • We didn’t know what our processes were going to be yet.  We didn’t have a clear idea about what the business problems were that we were trying to solve.
    • We’re not a big company (yet!). In some ways, we can manage things on a napkin or in our heads.
    • We don’t really want to spend a lot of money on fancy solutions that may or may not fit our real needs.  (And did we know our real needs?  Not really.)

Within a week, we had the beginnings of a sales pipeline built.  After a month and a half, we have an Excel spreadsheet that I like to call The Control Panel.  It lets us track everything that we feel that we need to know to manage the company effectively: the sales pipeline, the recruiting pipeline (see my post from last week for some further thoughts on the recruiting pipeline), impact of things on cash flow, etc.  (We do use QuickBooks for the financial stuff.)  It’s all wrapped together and lets us see where we are and where we are going.  It’s got conditional formatting, so things are green if they are good, red if they are bad.

Is it the end answer?  Of course not.  Is it scaleable?  For a while, but not forever.  Was it the right way to go?  Absolutely.  It let us all get our minds around what our processes should be and what we should be thinking about.  It lets us easily ask what if questions and quickly figure out the answer.  It’s teaching us what metrics we should have in our company scorecard and how often we should be looking at them.

Another great thing is that we will be able to move it all into MOSS with Excel Services and it will become the company dashboards and scorecards. It’s a functional prototype of our future corporate management tools.  We proved the concepts by taking baby steps, and we are better for having done so.

Where will it lead us?  I don’t know (we haven’t bought our crystal ball yet), but stay tuned…

Have a thought or opinion?