Lean Resources On Demand

On Demand

As people we have grown accustomed to service on demand.  The internet, fast food, service stations, 24 hour convenience shopping, medical services, video on demand, and so much more are available almost instantly.  Of course much of this is made possible by the latest technologies and electronic gadgets that bring the world to our finger tips at the push of a button.

Imagine if your business could experience the same level of accessibility to resources as we seem to have with the outside world in our personal lives.  Perhaps 2010 is the year to redefine how the systems and processes in your organization can emulate the “on demand” level of performance we have become accustomed to in our private lives.

Lean Resources

We predict that the year 2010 will see more specialization of service providers as companies continue to review their essential functions and resource requirements.  Although outsourcing has been a topic of discussion over the past few years, it is now becoming more prevalent as companies continue to review their organizational structures in light of declining sales and diminished profits.

The economic downturn did not limit its impact to the manufacturing sector or, more specifically, the automotive industry.  An article was recently published in our local news papers announcing the layoff of several news anchors and support staff from various television and radio broadcast stations.  Of the reasons mentioned for the restructuring, reduced advertising revenue was among them.

The Next Step

What are these people going to do?  Where will they find gainful employment in a declining market?  Are these skills no longer required?  The short answer is that their services are still required.  The problem is that one single company cannot afford to retain their services on a full-time basis.

As people affected by restructuring efforts, the best solution may be to start your own company and market your specialized skills or services.  While your former company may become one of your clients, it is possible that other companies are also in a place where they simply cannot afford to keep full-time staff to support their current needs.  Companies typically do not share resources with other companies; however, they do contract services to common service providers.  Syndication is widely used in broadcasting.

Using our personal lives as an example, we do not have our own full-time doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, auto mechanics, electricians, plumbers, and so on.  We simply hire these services on demand – only when we need them.  The focus of re-organization strategies today is to decide what services are essential to protect the proprietary nature of the business and those that could be outsourced as an on demand resource.

For the entrepreneur, as an individual entity serving multiple companies, your area of specialization can be developed and refined beyond the limits that may have been imposed by your former employer.  To explore this further, we will discuss several examples to develop the application of this concept.

The Possibilities – Examples

We all use computers in our daily lives just as you are while reading this article.  Clearly, someone was responsible for creating this wonderful technology and is presently working on the next generation computer or software program – whether we think we need it or not.  As individuals, we are immune to the multitude of tasks that this may entail.  We simply continue to enjoy the results.

Microsoft and Apple are continually developing new software capabilities and applications.  It’s common to hear, “There’s an APP for that.”  Even as these new products are released, areas of specialization evolve.  The next time you are browsing your way through a book store, look at the number of books written on Excel alone.  Books are available to teach you how to perform a variety of tasks including Dashboards, Business Applications, Charting, Pivot Tables, and even customization and advanced applications using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA).  The specialization model is further supported by the number of applications that have been developed using Excel as evidenced by the thousands of products and services available on the internet alone.

Although most companies may have a self-proclaimed Excel expert, most do not keep a full-time Excel specialist on staff.  It would not be uncommon to hire an Excel specialist to develop an application for your company.  As an independent solution provider, the Excel expert can continue to develop and hone their programming and development skills above and beyond what any person or company may need.  This in turn will result in more efficient and advanced functionality than any one company would be willing to afford.  Click here to visit our trusted Excel Web Resources.

One of the concerns at Research In Motion (RIM), creators of the BlackBerry, is finding the talent required to support their current technology.  The advancements and specialization required is beyond that taught in our universities and colleges.  This area of specialization has reached such a level, that only RIM is able to manage their product line.  It is expected that these essential services must be developed and retained internally and further enforced through their hiring contracts that are most certainly rife with non-competition and confidentiality clauses.

The medical field presents another excellent example of how increased specialization has evolved over the years to offer solutions, or cures, that otherwise would not be available today.  Today, the family doctor may just as readily refer you to a specialist and not fully diagnose your condition personally.  Even the field of dentistry has an evolved hierarchy of skills and specialization as do many legal practices.

Affordability

While we continue to enjoy ever-increasing enhancements and benefits to the products and services available to us, innovative ideas continue to surface into unique niche markets.  Because of the mass market appeal, products and services that are available to us as individuals could not be afforded otherwise.  Naturally, the same can be said for business.

We also recognize that one of the impediments to change is the significant investment that is already committed to support the processes and systems that define the current infrastructure.  Secondly, the funds to upgrade to an entirely new process or system are likely not available, especially in today’s economy.  Lastly, not all business need advanced levels of support or services and in some cases could never afford the level of performance they provide.

The price of upgrading is clear even in the simplest of operating environments.  Even today we continue to find older versions of Microsoft Office products such Excel 2000 or Excel 2003.  Although it took a while to adapt to the Microsoft 2007 environment, the enhancements and added capabilities were well worth the effort to upgrade.  Legacy software versions actually complicate the process of software development due to the programming overhead required for version specific compatibility.

As areas of specialization increase, products and services are becoming more affordable.  Companies that offer these services are creating unique venues to deliver their products or services with continually improved capabilities and options.  Even companies that could never afford an in-house ERP system may find a cost-effective solution using on-line services.  Some of the latest versions of major ERP systems provide all the amenities of real-time reporting, telecommuting, remote access, supply chain management, purchasing, on-line support, and so much more.

Summary

Clearly, using outside services that specialize in a complementary area of ability to your business can only result in a win-win outcome.  The specialist provides more knowledge and experience than your company could ever afford to learn and, as a company, you are able to focus on your own areas of expertise that in turn can only improve the products and services you provide.

As individuals – professional, skilled or otherwise – you may find that your talents are required and still very much in demand.  While companies must keep essential resources to protect the proprietary nature of their business (intellectual property and tangible assets), they are still able to use external resources to support their efforts.

From this perspective, we can learn a lot from small businesses that do not have the luxury of hiring full-time staff.  They may never afford to support traditional infrastructure often found in larger companies.  Small business entrepreneurs focus on their core areas of expertise, their essential products and services, and retain the services of outside specialists on demand.

Companies will continue to look for opportunities to embrace outside services – on demand resources – allowing them to focus on their core business activities.  While this may seem contrary to the traditional lean tenets, we would argue to the contrary.  Professional and skilled resources can save your company a significant amount of time and energy and will substantially reduce the learning curve required to integrate system and technology solutions into your organization.  Their experience is priceless.

Until Next Time – STAY lean!

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