How to strategically plan a software lifecycle

by Joanie Hollabaugh, Sr. Director of Marketing and Mark Jensen, Director of Business Development

Plan a Growth Strategy

If you’ve ever been through a Strategic Planning exercise for your company (and I highly recommend it!), you are instructed to brainstorm your goals and KPIs in phases. Often companies are so caught up in the short-term worries of cash flow or change management, they lose sight of the intentional milestones they are trying to achieve.

One of the templates I am familiar with makes you break out SMART goals into quarterly, annually, 3-5 years out, 10 years, and finally, the BHAG.

What’s your BHAG?

My favorite part is always coming up with the BHAG. Here, I begin to let my imagination soar, and I am always blown away by my counterparts’ visions for the future of the company. It’s always exciting and sometimes a bit crazy, but it’s also an opportunity to freestyle in a ‘corporate’ setting. You learn a LOT about your peers in this exercise!

If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s how Wikipedia explains it:

The term “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” was proposed by James Collins and Jerry Porras in their 1994 book entitled Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.[1] A BHAG encourages companies to define visionary goals that are more strategic and emotionally compelling. Many businesses set goals that describe what they hope to accomplish over the coming days, months or years. These goals help align employees of the business to work together more effectively. Often these goals are very tactical, such as “achieve 10% revenue growth in the next 3 months”. In contrast, Collins and Porras define a BHAG (pronounced BEE-hag) as “an audacious 10-to-30-year goal to progress towards an envisioned future”.[2] The authors claim that a company may have more than one BHAG; there may be one over-reaching BHAG and other shorter term BHAGs.

Your BHAG should be at the end of your planning strategy, whether it’s an exit strategy or an IPO goal. The point is, your company now has a roadmap with a lifecyle!

Your software has a lifecycle too. You may purchase your “core” accounting solution and think you’re done. ABSOLUTELY not — it’s actually the BEGINNING of the journey.

Allow for integrated ‘stages’

As your company grows by quarter, annually, etc., — you will find the need for ‘extra’ efficiencies to help you meet your financial or growth goals (i.e., adding headcount or new products or services), and constantly emerging technologies. You can accomplish this by adding functionality — modules — as you need them, in stages.

Adding technology

Say one of your goals is to manage your bids better by Q3. Your back-end accounting system can’t do this, and that’s OK. What’s not OK is if you add disparate technology that doesn’t ‘talk’ to the back office. You’re separating your business units to act independently from each other, when you have the opportunity to IMPROVE communications and build historical assets (which will help you plan NEXT year’s goals). You want your portfolio to perform a KPI to hit a goal, AND intelligently analyze and report it. If it’s important enough to set goals, it’s equally (or more) important to know if you’re hitting them!

Build a comprehensive product portfolio

Start with Sage 100 Contractor, for example.  Once you have the back office set up, extend and improve your operations by adding additional Sage Integrated Products — so that your information is as easy to access as possible.

The process can begin with Estimating. Since the estimator analyzes the job at its most detailed level, materials, subcontracts and schedules are automatically created in this module. The elimination of duplicate handling can save you countless hours in purchasing and managing subcontractor production. Payroll and Equipment Management allow you to charge all of your internal production costs to the job. Job Profitability, Equipment Profitability, and Production Analysis are instantly at your disposal because of the one touch integration. All information flows through to billing. See how we did that?

Additionally, AIA G702 – 703 Billing, Time and Material Billing, and Unit Cost Billing all integrate seamlessly to ensure you are on top of your cash position at all times.  Work in Process reporting easily gives you over- and under-billing positions to meet any bonding requirements. Sage 100 Contractor allows for use of the built-in estimating or Sage Estimating enhanced module to integrate budgets, purchasing, and subcontractor management.

How to plan your software lifecycle

Stage one

Start with the basics, naturally. These are what Sage calls “on plan” modules. They include for Sage 100 Contractor:

  • Estimating
  • Equipment
  • Document Control
  • Service Receivables/Inventory (combined)

These ‘basic’ modules could sustain you, conceivably, for 1-3 years. When your company grows to a point where you need more accessibility to function across the company — plan for the next growth stage.

Stage two

Every software developer partners with ISV’s (Independent Software Vendors) to provide expertise and efficiencies that aren’t capable or profitable for the developer. Sage is no exception. They have partnered in recent years with ISV’s to make Sage 100 CON and Sage 300 CRE function better and to be accessible from anywhere.

These add-ons and web services integrate seamlessly with the core, ‘back end’ system that you have invested in. Providers like Ledgerwood are trained and certified by Sage (with a few exceptions), so that we may advise, implement, and help support these complementary products. Here are the additional modules and web services that Sage currently offers (with links to more info):

Stage three

Review your Strategic Plan with your software lifecycle — do they align? Your software portfolio should be creating the results (financials) with which to review your Strategic Plan, hopefully.

Get in the rhythm to review your Strategic Plan quarterly, so you can adjust quickly. What goals are you hitting? Are there software additions or services that can help you if you are not?

If you’re not sure, LAI is there to help you analyze/adjust your current product portfolio. Vice President, Tony Merry is often called to clients’ office to do a FREE systems/process analysis to help guide companies in planning a successful product portfolio. It’s a no-commitment look at how your suite is performing, plus what you may need (or DON’T and can get rid of).

Lastly, get your entire team to understand the journey. Life and business solutions are rarely a ‘one and done’ scenario. If you create an environment where people feel free to make suggestions for improvements, everyone benefits. And prospers!

How to get started

Need help planning yours? Tony Merry LOVES to do system reviews for clients! Give us a call at 480-423-8300 to get on his calendar!