March 2019 - Striven

All-In-One Business Management Software Determines Your Workplace Culture

Every organization wants a good workplace culture, and we often assume that good people are the key to getting it. Colleagues who can communicate well work better in teams. Those who share and report data can lend clarity to projects and help define roles within them.

But what happens when “good people” are slowed down, confused, or mistaken? It happens all the time. More often than not, software is at the root of the problem.

We don’t always suspect software to cause issues in workplace culture. Or do we? Chances are, people within any organization are constantly frustrated by the inability of the management software they use to help them do their jobs. And we tend to take that frustration for granted.

People point fingers at people, not software. When data goes missing, when errors appear in reports, or when someone misses a project deadline, we assume they haven’t done their job well.

Here’s the truth: bad software can cause those problems. Good software can solve them.

Why Positive Workplace Culture Matters

As much as we want to believe happy hours, holiday parties, or breakroom birthday cakes are an integral part of office culture, they merely support it. Proper communication methods, coupled with access to information, are how workplace culture actually gets created.

Workplace Culture

Increasingly, we use software to manage the ways we communicate and solve problems. From even the most commonly used communications like scheduling meetings to assigning tasks, long gone are the days when an organization relies on paper, phone calls, and faxes.

According to an article by the Harvard Business Review, “550 million workdays are lost each year due to stress on the job.” Drawing on studies by the Queens School of Business and the Gallup Organization, the article further notes:

“Disengaged workers had 37% higher absenteeism, 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects. In organizations with low employee engagement scores, they experienced 18% lower productivity, 16% lower profitability, 37% lower job growth, and 65% lower share price over time. Importantly, businesses with highly engaged employees enjoyed 100% more job applications.”


Those statistics should matter to anyone who believes their organization should be productive and profitable. That’s a nice way of saying they should matter to everyone.

Software Defines Workplace Culture. For Better or Worse.

The reason software defines workplace culture is simple: software defines your process.

Here are three common examples that prove it:

  1. The Hiring Process.  As I recruit my best candidates and choose my hires, I want to make sure I onboard them seamlessly into my company. That means I’ll need a way to share our documented values, beliefs, and practices from the moment of hire. When I do that, I immerse my future employees in organizational culture before they even walk in the door for their first day on the job. 
  2. Project Management. What about when I’m putting people on a new project? I need a way of assigning roles, tasks, and milestones. Then I need a way of tracking progress, where I can easily see what work has been completed, make changes if necessary, and communicate instantly to any or all team members. If I don’t have an accurate, instant tracking method, I can count on being confused about project status. I shouldn’t be surprised, then, when work isn’t completed on time.
  3. Data Management. If my employees are double-entering any company data, they risk making mistakes. Because they’re human. Errors are understandable, but that doesn’t make them acceptable. The only way I can truly avoid errors, in this context, is to eliminate the process that causes them.

Good Management Software = Good Culture.

Software plays a critical role in all three of the scenarios above. But is the formula really so simple?

final puzzle piece for all in one business management software

It can be. The right management software helps you centralize and share data. If the information is easily accessible across your entire organization, your employees won’t waste time searching for documents.

That means less frustration, more productivity, and better teamwork. With streamlined information flow, there’s no one to blame when things get lost— because they don’t get lost.

Of course, it’s possible to have no software to attempt these processes. In some cases, that might be better than using the wrong software. But for a business in this era, it’s not possible to truly streamline your processes and to meet modern demands and standards with paper receipts and ledgers.

Simply, you’ll never be competitive without software-driven process management.

How to Audit Workplace Problems Caused by Software

If you’re concerned that you have a workplace culture issue that’s being caused by your software, you’re not alone. Employees bang their head on computer screens all the time because their software is failing them.

You may never hear about it, though, because you can’t simply have a conversation with your software and make it better. For this reason, many software users complain in silence, assuming that nothing will change.

Here are some simple steps you can take to find out whether (and where) software is causing process problems:

Step 1- Take Stock of Your Software. Before you do any outreach, you’ll need to tally the different software products you use and categorize their purpose.

Keep in mind that having a collection of management software products might be the cause of your culture and process issues. Separation creates silos, resulting in a jumble of applications that manage different divisions.

Too often, those applications don’t talk to each other. Or perhaps they did once, but arbitrary updates cause bugs that shut down communication.

A single management system, whose purpose is to bridge the communication divide between departments, is preferable to patchwork software. With one system that everyone can use, you’ll be able to connect your entire organization.

erp software tablet

Step 2- Survey Your Employees. Your workforce will be the best source of both positive and negative feedback about the software they use. Once you’ve identified your software list, create an internal survey. Anonymous surveys may yield more honest responses, but you’ll know what works best for your culture.

Make sure your survey contains questions that will generate the kind of feedback you’re looking for. You’ll need to ask about ease of use, time spent on processes, and perceived benefits and detriments of each application.

Step 3- Evaluate Feedback. Listen to what people are saying. If you find a high enough volume of negative feedback related to any one software product, it may be safe to assume that you’re only seeing the tip of the frustration iceberg.

At this point, you should speak with managers directly. Ask them to walk you through some of the processes they feel could be improved. You can draw some telling conclusions from an in-person evaluation.

Step 4- Plan for Improvement. Changing a product or process is one of the most difficult decisions organizations face.

It’s important to remember that this kind of change is meant for collaboration, connectivity, and more efficient work. If you arrive at the decision honestly, after proper evaluation, you should be excited by the possibility of leaving inefficiency behind.

Looking for Improvement

Your improvement plan will include either assembling a team or tasking department managers to replace the software that’s slowing you down. You’ll need to consider how much you need to replace and whether a single solution is the best way to go.

Choosing cost-effective enterprise software allows you to use only what you need, at a pace you control. For example, you may just want to connect your accounting to your CRM. Should you want to track inventory, or manage projects through the same system, you’ll be able to do that.

You’ll also want to think about data security, and whether cloud-based software will be best for your organization. After thorough research, you might find that a cloud option is far safer and affordable than maintaining your own data center.


It may seem surprising to some people that business software holds such sway over culture. In truth, the software seed was planted decades ago, and we’re only now reaching the point where the ways we work, communicate, and grow can all be determined by the software we use.

The power of the right management software, then, is that it can be an agent of change.

No organization needs to feel the stress of slow process or the fear of working in the dark. Making the choice to empower your workforce with connected, dynamic software is the crucial step toward the kind of longevity and success that only comes from having a stronger culture.

How to Remove Your Data Silo (With An ERP Software System)

The silo. Great for farmers. Not so great for others.

A question for you, dear reader: how much time do you or your employees spend trying to track down records, document versions, invoices, sales orders, etc.?

Farm Silos (data silos)

If the answer is either “more than a few minutes” or “it depends on the person I need to get it from,” that’s a sure bet you’re working in an information silo.

Most businesses don’t love the idea of letting their work pile up, yet they don’t always correctly identify the reason it happens. Why? Because It’s easy for management to attribute a work pileup to laziness or inability. Conversely, most employees in these situations tend to feel that they’ve got too much on their plate.

The bottom line: data silos create problems in both process and productivity. In fact, as Edd Wilder-James of the Harvard Business Review notes, “80% of the work in any data analysis is data preparation.”

But data silos also create issues of communication and trust— and those issues can cause more systemic problems.  

So how can your company develop a more fluid workflow and speed up information retrieval without having to tear down your divisional structure (or turning into a cult)?

Where Silos Come From

Before making the distinction between removing data silos and changing organizational structure, it’s important to understand how both get created.

As organizations grow, and their processes become more complex, they form distinct specialization groups.

erp software system

A typical organization may have divisions for sales, marketing, accounting, project management, human resources, IT, inventory management, and more. While divisions vary by industry and type of work, any business numbering more than a few employees naturally starts to develop this model.

The structure makes sense. I wouldn’t trust my sales team to run my accounting department, and vice versa. It’s entirely natural, then, for divisions to form. But when they do, they create work (documents, processes, data of any kind) that they don’t share.

Not because they have some inherent animosity toward other divisions, but because it’s their work. They know how to interpret it and they know where it’s stored. And if you’re in another department, you don’t know.

That’s how data silos are born from structural divisions.

Data Silos Cause Problems Company-Wide

Though silos are the natural result of business process development, that doesn’t mean we should be singing praises for the data cloisters they create.

Three key areas where data silos hurt organizations the most:

Team Target

Productivity– Businesses will always have data that must be touched by more than one division. Inability to easily find that information takes time, which is one of the major culprits in backlogged work.

Accuracy & Analysis- When information touches more than one division, it may be necessary to edit or reconcile in some way. The result: data gets passed back and forth and, unless employees create a proper edit log, numbers can change or get lost in the process.

As Walter Scott of Forbes writes, “Any time data is touched by a human, objectivity decreases. Machine data is objective. It provides a single version of the truth — one the entire enterprise should share. But it’s impossible to have one version of the truth if the data is in silos.”

Culture– How well employees get along is often determined by how much they are empowered to do their jobs. Having to rely on other divisions for information can naturally create frustration and resentment of the way those in other departments work.

Likewise, members of divisions sometimes develop natural propriety over their data. Simply, they don’t want it to be touched (read: mangled) by anyone else. This, too, can lead to resentment.

Warning: How Not to Deal With Information Silos

By now, you should be convinced that information silos create organizational problems. If you’re not, read Brent Gleeson’s excellent article on the subject.

Gleeson, however, relies too much on fixing company culture at the level of culture. Here’s why that doesn’t work:

If you’ve ever developed a real friendship with a fellow employee outside of the workplace, you know how valuable they can be. You commiserate, discuss what’s working and what’s not, and sometimes develop breakthroughs that lead to a better performance on the job.

The problem with these relationships, for an organization, is that they can’t be manufactured.

Companies try to manufacture them. Oh, do they try.

people using erp software

Picnics, happy hours, contests, (insert your favorite forced work hangout), are all well-intentioned. And any company that cares about its culture should absolutely sponsor these types of events. After all, there’s something to be said for simply knowing that positive and collegial workplace culture is a part of your company’s mission.

But no manager or CEO should mistake those culture-building touchstones as something that will improve information sharing. No matter how much I like my coworkers in other departments, having to track down the data they manage that my department needs won’t happen any faster.

Why not? Because they’re busy. Because I’m busy. When organizations don’t have a way to easily share documents, they’re going to spend time searching. And searching.

Data: Root & the Solution

Back to the essential question: how does an organization maintain its divisional integrity while allowing for better information sharing and culture?

It’s all about the data.

Having an intelligent, streamlined way to share data relieves the burden on any particular employee or department to provide accessibility for others. While employees may “own” the work they’ve done or the numbers they’ve produced, they shouldn’t also be responsible for the wasted time it takes for someone else to retrieve it.

Nor should those who need access waste time taking others away from their work. Documents shared internally limit search time to seconds.

So the solution, naturally, is to find a document storage solution that helps divisions share, right?

Not so fast.

It’s not quite that simple. Documents managed by software applications are often proprietary. Sure, they can be exported, but that’s a manual process that takes just as much time, if not more, than the process of having to ask someone for it. Often, information retrieval means requesting and manual exporting.

It’s a real issue. As the Wall Street Journal Reports, “[36% of recently surveyed] executives whose organizations struggle with silos also were less likely to say their technology investments have achieved or exceeded their intended business outcomes.”

Software applications can share data, but that functionality can require costly integrations. And when one application updates, you have to hope your current lines of communication stay open.

The ERP Software Solution

erp software system

Great workplace cultures evolve from having great processes— enabled by the software that can handle it. Having a single software solution that shares data company-wide without having to talk to several other applications provides the kind of workflow and information sharing that solves silo issues.

True cloud-based ERP software is the only way to achieve that kind of total visibility, especially in a larger organization.

Sharing data via a single application means, importantly, that there’s no need to restructure your organization. Departments can still focus on what they do best. And when they do it, their work goes into a system accessed by every employee.

This process puts an end to time spent looking for data that seems lost but is actually either floating in some application’s ether or locked away in another employee’s digital cabinet.

Opening the information gate improves your process, which improves your culture in a way that no other solution can.


As your organization grows, you may make valiant (and varied) attempts at connecting the divisions that have formed. You may stress collaboration and having an internal culture that works and plays well together.

But let’s face it: work is work. True collaboration comes from clarity, visibility, and access. When you’re able to connect and integrate your company via data sharing, you’ll get rid of the work pile-up.

After all, silos are best left to the farmers.

Does Your ERP Software Support Do This?

You dial the 800 number. You wait.

A pre-recorded message greets you, slowly describing your options. None of them are even close to what you need. You press zero in hopes of an operator.

You’re greeted by another recorded message. All operators are busy. Your wait time is approximately: longer than you planned to spend on the phone.

You wait. Your coffee gets cold. You develop new bad habits (biting fingernails?). Meanwhile, no one at your company can actually do any work because your software isn’t working. The tension mounts.

IT Wait Call

Suddenly, it hits you: you’re actually paying this company. Their support line is free. But is it?

You’re not alone in your frustration. Seeking tech support is inherently problematic— we usually do it when something has gone wrong, when our business needs help sooner than later. This feeling is so common, Kate Murphy of The New York Times coined a phrase for it: “tech support rage.”

But it doesn’t have to be this frustrating. There are many companies for whom it isn’t this way, and there’s a single factor that determines the difference between outstanding software support and you tearing out tufts of your hair, waiting for a better solution.

The Hidden Factor In ERP Software Support

Smoothly functioning software is critical to your business processes, but bugs are a fact of life. Occasionally, the lines go down. The data center blips.

While your business should expect occasional hiccups, you also have every right to expect responsive, caring customer support.

Caring. Sounds a bit touchy-feely. And it should, because a company that cares has a different, far more effective hands-on model of providing software helpdesk support. It underscores their entire philosophy in their approach to their customers.

erp software

That’s important As Vala Afshar notes in a Huffington Post article, 66% of consumers who switched brands did so because of poor service.

Companies that care about rapid response and resolution time have a deeper commitment to the product they’ve sold you. (That is, if your software vendor also provides support; if not, you’re in for a world of hurt.)

How do you find this amazing support? The people who actually care about how well your business software works, and who will do whatever is needed to keep it that way?

ERP Support types (and why they matter)

Before getting into finding diamonds in the rough, it’s important to understand the types of support you typically get when you purchase or license a software product. Not all vendors offer every type of service, but the best ones should check these boxes.

Support material

This could be anything from text-based user documentation, videos, screenshots, or webinars. Support materials like these are intended to be self-service. The more detailed they are, the less likely you’ll need to call support to figure out how to use the full functionality of the product.

Phone support

Imagine a neutral version of the scenario described above. You dial a number and can speak to someone on the phone. For many, it’s reassuring to have a human voice on the end of the line— someone to whom they can explain the issue clearly and feel like they’re being heard.

Live chat

IT Support

An increasingly popular version of support, live chat allows you to type your issue directly to a virtual operator, often inside software application itself. Companies approach this method differently, with some having an actual person behind the chat, and others providing an AI operator. Some companies now even offer video chat for their customer service needs.

Online ticket submission

With this service, you can submit a ticket directly through an online submission system. The ticket is either assigned to a specific software support advisor, or it goes into a pool until someone grabs it. The best ticketing systems allow you to track response and resolution times; it’s a great objective way to get a sense of how good your support is.

Feature release messages

Either internally generated or pushed out to you via email or phone, these messages are a proactive method of support. If a software product is undergoing an update that will result in more functionality, or a different user experience, knowing that information in advance prevents your employees from being confused when changes occur.

Professional services & consulting

By far the most personal of any support type, a software advisor assigned to your account, who gets to know your business, is someone who you can contact directly. Your advisor may also consult on your business processes that work in line with your software or that may be altered by the way you use it.

How to know your ERP support team cares

erp software system advisor

While there are plenty of customer support types, with some software vendors offering all of them, that doesn’t mean they’re actually going to help you. Service quality matters far more than the method. And the company that cares will make all the difference.

So how do you find that quality and get the level of service you deserve? Here’s what to look for:

1. Response time

Above anything else, a fast response will indicate a helpdesk support team’s attitude toward helping you. Before you make a commitment to purchase software, contact the customer support channels (note- this is different than contacting sales). Come up with an example issue and see how quickly you can get someone on the phone, or on chat, or on an email reply.

In most companies, a sales representative will get back to you within an instant. And you know why. But support services are working behind the scenes— they’re not interested in doing business with you. However, you can tell very quickly, by the timing of their response, how interested they are in helping you. If a vendor publishes their average response time, check it against your own experience.

2. Resolution time

Just because you have the option to submit online tickets or reach someone via chat doesn’t mean your issue is going to get resolved quickly. Whether it’s a how-to or an actual functionality problem, you need to know that you’ve got someone instantly on the case.

Will your support team provide a hotfix to resolve the issue quickly while they work on a more permanent solution? Are they communicating clearly with you, and is there a way for you to track progress without having to call and inquire? You should have clear, procedural answers to all of these questions.

3. In-House Support

Where is the support based? If the vendor farms support out to a third-party, communication issues can be an unwanted side-effect. Third parties don’t always have the most updated information needed to provide the best quality support.

Software vendors, especially those who actually develop the product, are the best sources of tech support. Why? They know the product better than anyone else. They don’t have a slew of other products they also sell, so they have the advantage of focusing on what they do best. Further, they’re the most invested in the usability of their software and the happiness of their customers. In short, they care the most.

4. Coverage

Vendors that care will be transparent about what types of customer support are covered and what aren’t. It’s commonplace for vendors to charge for premium support packages— with anything, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. Before you pay anything, make sure they publish clear guidelines for what’s free and what isn’t. Hidden costs are the last thing you want to encounter when you need help.

Above all else, you need this…

erp software system

While the list above details your due diligence in discovering the best software support, all companies that care have this in common: they understand your business.

That means, of course, their support team takes the time to get to know how your business operates. The more intimately they understand your workflows, your employee roles, and your processes, the better (and more quickly) they’ll be able to help.

Having a trusted ERP software advisor is the key to working with support services that care. Because you need someone who will go to bat for you, not just in terms of fixing problems, but in prioritizing your needs. Ideally, your advisor will not only know you, they’ll know your personality and be invested in the livelihood of your business.

There’s a process benefit, too. As Robert Johnson put it in a recent Wired article, “By assigning a single rep to herd the issue through the process, the customer is guaranteed to have support and not have to repeat their question a number of times.”

That type of responsive, caring service is the critical factor in your software experience. It looks a lot different than speaking to an automated operator.


Not all ERP software support is created equally. It’s an iron-clad rule that vendors whose culture emphasizes a caring, personalized approach to support will make sure your business runs smoothly on their product. They can even act as advisors, uncovering solutions to processes you didn’t even know could be better. That kind of insight is priceless.

Before purchasing software, make sure you go beyond what a vendor says about their support. (They’ll all say it’s excellent.) Find out for yourself by taking support channels for test drives. It’s the only way to truly know what kind, and how much help you’re getting with your support.

How to Choose the Right ERP Software for Your Small Business

What do broken heaters and gum disease have in common?

They inspire urgency. There’s nothing like small-scale disasters to get us to take action. If you look more closely, they also have something else in common: we take proactive measures so that they don’t happen in the first place. We service our HVAC systems and brush our teeth.

So why don’t we take the same measures when it comes to small business?

Most small business owners and managers make decisions about their immediate future. They see the need for a solution, so they find one. It seems like a reasonable process, but there’s a core problem they aren’t addressing: the long-term.

Whether you’re hiring new employees, adding a new location, or just expanding in general, you need a system that accommodates future growth. That includes having centralized and shared data, streamlined workflows, and connected sales and accounting divisions. For a small business or startup, it may seem like a tall order to get all of that with a single software application.

Fortunately, you can achieve a proactive approach to success with only three letters: ERP.

ERP Software, Defined and Re-Defined

cloud erp on mobile phone

Even if you’re familiar with the term, it might be different than the last time you checked. That’s because ERP software is rapidly changing, with a major value-add to small businesses and startups.

What is ERP software? ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning and is a business management solution that allows companies to function within one software system.

That works just fine for a current definition. But ERP has evolved significantly over the past decade, and it continues to change. Let’s dig into a brief history of ERP before we discuss where it’s headed. And, most importantly, why your business needs it.

ERP System Origins and Evolution

According to Ken Biddick of KB Consulting Group, “ERP was the holy grail of a system limited to production and manufacturing, with nowhere near the integration functionality it has today. Purchasing, production management, inventory control, and cost accounting all tied together and reported to the general ledger.”

At the time, it was revolutionary.

Today, ERP software is both more powerful and expansive. Simply, it puts the “e” in enterprise. ERP has become a much more holistic system; though still popular in production and manufacturing, it’s no longer limited to only those areas.

ERP and People

More organizations have embraced business software technology to run their multiple operations. At the same time, the marketplace of management options has become more crowded.

As ERP software vendors have scaled down their products to accommodate other industries and smaller-sized organizations, these products have become not only viable but practical and cost-effective solutions for SMBs.

The mass migration of software applications to the cloud has further opened up the world of ERP software. Widely considered a more secure data option, the cloud has also given ERP systems the flexibility to allow for mobile and field accessibility.

In the current climate, ERP systems give smaller businesses the ability to have a virtual back office. It allows them to focus on what they do best. Organizations that use cloud ERP systems waste less time on outdated or complex management processes.

There are still plenty of legacy products available. But newer enterprise applications have leveraged an understanding of modern business processes to create flexible and dynamic business management software.

How to Know When Your Business is Ready for ERP Software

business people at starting line ready to implement erp

Whether you own a one-person shop or have a startup with a handful of employees, most small organizations tend to work the same way. They purchase solutions as needs arise.

All businesses know that accounting will be central to their operations, so business owners get the popular accounting software.

Wash, rinse, and repeat that process with every operation your organization runs, and you’ve got a pile of software applications for everything— and a pile of bills to match.

Because ERP software can solve both immediate and long-term needs, it’s worth considering in place of individual applications. Here’s why:


You can use the architecture of an ERP system to frame the way you work. Because a good system gives you complete visibility, you’ll do things right the first time.

Think of it the other way around: if you’ve constructed processes that take a long time, or that rely on multiple applications to work properly, you’ll need to re-learn them all eventually. Further, if a single thing goes wrong in one application, you can bet it will affect your entire workflow.


When your business becomes profitable, that’s reason enough to get excited about your future. But if you can’t get an accurate picture of your financial information, you might end up making mistakes that don’t become clear until far into the future.

Basing spending decisions on profit alone is the killer of many small businesses. Having an accounting system that produces high-quality, on-demand reports and integrates with every other division of your company is an excellent way to ensure you make the right decisions for your future.


Time Illustration

Let’s put it this way: the more reliant you are on software, the more difficult it is to change. That’s a great thing— if your software is doing what you need it to. If not, you’ll have trouble weighing the decision to upgrade due to the perceived pain and time it will take to migrate data onto a new system.

While it’s never too late to change, the sooner you can identify exactly what your needs are, the more time you’ll have to find, evaluate, and adopt a solution that works for you.


ERP software has come a long way since its inception. For any small business or startup organization, the takeaway should be this:

Enterprise management is no longer for only the midsize and large companies. While they used to be the only organizations that could pay for it, modern cloud ERP systems have become both flexible and affordable.

If you’re just getting started, you’re in a great position to be poised for future success with ERP software. If you’re running a small business, see how making smart changes now can make all the difference in your competitive edge.

This article is based on an interview conducted with Ken Biddick of Kenneth Biddick & Co. PC. Learn more about Ken’s accounting and consulting work.