The secrets to avoiding a business system hairball

25 September 2019 | BlueBridge One

The Software Hairball Syndrome (SHS) is a real problem for businesses as they grow and evolve. No wholesaler or distributor wants to have this condition – it’s messy and takes its toll on all concerned.

Software Hairball Syndrome is caused by a tangled mess of mismatched IT systems that is the inevitable product of companies running multiple siloed software products creating an unstable, confusing and ineffective tangle of ad hoc integrations, processes and systems.
For years, SHS sufferers have been silent victims, afraid to speak out for fear they would be mocked and ostracised by their peers. As growth occurs, companies add software and systems to manage departments, automate processes and provide insights into operations. However, it is hardly ever done with long range goals in mind. Occasionally, there might be one system that can handle a number of functions or some software packages might come with pre-built integrations for certain industries. The end result? A “hairball” of disparate systems, loosely connected with brittle integrations that demand attention with every upgrade or tweak.

The emergence of cloud-based applications and Software-as-a-Service hasn’t eliminated this hairball, but has simply moved it to the cloud. In fact, the cloud’s low upfront costs that facilitate departmental purchases without oversight from IT or costly hardware investments sometimes makes it worse.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

And just to be clear – this isn’t an on-premise versus cloud discussion — even clouds have hairballs, and sometimes they can even grow faster than on-premise ones simply because there’s no hardware to deploy and maintain.
So, maybe it’s time for a change. NetSuite was in its infancy when Bill Gates published the following in his 1999 book, Business @ the Speed of Thought: Using a Digital Nervous System. So how can you spot the signs that it’s time to switch to a more comprehensive ERP application?

There are a few sure things to look out for:

• Things are getting harder to keep track of.

• There is no reporting, it takes a long time or is unreliable.

• It takes multiple conversations to get to the ‘truth’  – when you spend more time trying to fix inconsistencies than studying and learning from the data your systems should be supplying.

• When things go wrong, you have limited understanding of what actually happened, why it happened and who was involved.

It is important for companies to learn how to spot the warning signals of SHS. If an organisation suffers from repeated data entry, lengthy upgrade cycles, high IT overhead and sluggish processes, it should seek immediate attention and join the growing list of thousands of companies who have revitalised their organisations by removing their software hairballs. For instance, what if you were to start with NetSuite—an application designed to run your entire business, not just financials, as your business system.

If you want to learn more, download our free e-book to help you understand and overcome SHS.