Archive | January 2013

What are the right KPIs for your business?

For the last 18 months, I’ve been studying business KPIs across a huge number of industries. And I’ve discovered that many businesses consider some KPIs insignificant and don’t realise how monitoring them could actually make a huge difference to their business.

Monitoring certain KPIs that seem mundane or are used for only one particular area can actually give you insight into other areas.

For example, at DMS, we started monitoring alarm system activation to ensure that staff were turning the alarm on. However, this unexpectedly enabled us to see what period of time the cleaners were spending on site, which was useful information for us.

Another example was the DMS website. Monitoring our website performance unexpectedly showed us that our web host was having occasional but significant failures and, at times, taking down our website for up to 12 hours. We’d had no idea that this was happening! (How many businesses sit looking at their website all day to make sure it’s still up? You just ‘trust’ that your host is doing a good job, don’t you?)

Additionally, different industries need to monitor different KPIs. Sometimes the ‘normal’ business KPIs (i.e. number of sales, revenue, number of clients) will not be the ones that most influence your particular business. You could be dependent on factors such as temperature, pressure, humidity, light levels and sound levels. For example, you might run a restaurant or event management business where the possibility of rain could influence sales or productivity. Here, weather KPIs would be vital.

If you have cold storage, you might need to monitor your power supply, because finding out one morning that your freezers have been off overnight could be disastrous. You need to be alerted immediately if a circuit breaker trips or there is any other type of failure.

We ourselves had to monitor our own power supply due to the grid or circuit breaker failures we sometimes experienced. As part of our business involves website hosting, if we lost power, even with uninterruptible power supply backups, those websites would eventually go down. And the first we’d hear about it would be from a customer — not ideal!

This is where dashboards and complex reporting systems just don’t work. When something goes wrong in your business, you need to know immediately, so you can take action. That’s why we’ve reinvented the concept of business monitoring with Bizeo — the world’s first business monitoring system.

Take a moment now to think about your business. What KPIs are most vital for you?

Note: The Bizeo launch is happening on Thursday 24 January at The Polish Club, Milton. There I’ll be giving a talk about KPI monitoring and answering all the curly questions the audience can throw at me. I’d love to see you there! You can find out more at http://www.bizeo.com.au/events/launch

Even if you can’t make it, Follow us on LinkedIn or Like us on Facebook to get loads of useful tips on using KPIs to improve your business!

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You can’t manage what you don’t measure!

Since starting out in business as a teenager, I’ve been interested in metrics. Like most business owners, the first thing I measured was my bank account. Then I measured the number of hours a week I worked, the number of clients I had and how many hours a week were chargeable.

Over time, things got more sophisticated. As well as bank balance, I measured the liquidity ratio on my balance sheet. As well as new customers, I looked at leads, conversion rates and times. As my infrastructure grew, I acquired more pieces of equipment that could affect my business if they went wrong.

Ok, it might seem like I was a tad obsessed! However, there’s an adage that ‘you can’t manage what you don’t measure’. While most businesspeople do understand why they should establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and review their performance, many important KPIs are not being measured because of the cost, or because they’re buried inside complex reports or ‘dashboards’.

Also, this process can easily get out of hand because each KPI consumes resources to measure and review. Some, like whether your website is up, must be checked every few minutes, while staff holiday leave entitlements and debt level might need checking only monthly.

Therefore, trying to track all the KPIs and worrying about the unknowns keeps many businesspeople up at night. They can’t leave the office because either they need to keep checking things or they’re afraid of what will happen if they are away. They never really feel in control.

This is exactly what happened to us at Direct Marketing Software after the 2011 Queensland floods. Internet, power, computer systems, our sales pipeline, our productivity – everything was falling apart. And we had our hands full on the disaster recovery job and assisting our clients that had been affected. We dropped many balls because there weren’t enough hours in the day to keep track of the things we regularly measured and checked.

This dire situation led us to completely rethink business monitoring, creating a Cloud-based system that solves all the above problems. The result was Bizeo, which:

  • allowed us to set up as many KPIs as necessary
  • extracted KPI data automatically from our existing computer systems, equipment and data sources on the web
  • prompted our staff to enter manually calculated KPIs when necessary.
  • monitored KPIs automatically and notified us if any went outside acceptable parameters.

Now I can measure anything I like and but I also have the freedom I needed. The Bizeo indicator comes with me on my mobile phone, tablet or computer (even to the beach!). If I want to see a KPI’s current value, trend or even detailed report, that’s available to me too. But, mostly, I just want to see that green dot, which tells me all is well.

Bizeo green dot to indicate all is well.

In 2013, the key to business success will be KPIs. But it doesn’t need to be complex, costly or resource-sucking anymore. So get to it and best of luck!

Soaring temperatures – an OH&S issue and a vital KPI

This week’s blistering weather around the country has created a serious OH&S issue for many businesses.  But it’s also a great reminder of the types of things Bizeo is designed to monitor.

I have a colleague who runs engineering workshops. These workshop buildings are often tin sheds, so the temperature inside the workshop is often much higher that outside.

He told me that, once the workshop temperature hits 40 degrees Celsius, they have to close the workshop down and move staff into air-conditioned offices to perform other functions.

The problem he faces is that the administrators who make the decision to close down are isolated from the staff in the workshops. They really have no idea what the real temperature is in there.

With Bizeo, he can connect a group of temperature sensors to the Wi-Fi network to monitor working conditions at various locations – even remote facilities.  This gives him and other managers automatic control over the situation, and staff aren’t required to sit around watching a thermometer!

Bizeo monitoring temperatures in Sydney

Bizeo monitoring recent temperatures in Sydney

This is one example of Bizeo not just taking dashboard-style data but connecting to Internet-enabled hardware (sensors and devices). This machine-to-machine connection is referred to as ‘the Internet of things’ and it’ll be one of the change factors of 2013.

I’ll write more about the Internet of things in future blog posts and discuss it at the upcoming Bizeo launch event. I’d love to see you there!

The story of Bizeo: From disaster to inspiration

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since the Queensland floods. But out of the drama of January 2011 came an idea that has become Bizeo, a ground-breaking business monitoring system unlike anything you’ve seen before.

On 24 January, we’ll launch Bizeo at a fun, free event at the Polish Club, Milton, Queensland. You can read more about the event here. For my first post in this blog,  I thought I’d share some of the Bizeo story.

Like many others, our Milton-based business, Direct Marketing Software, was affected by the floods in January 2011. While we weren’t flooded ourselves, the businesses around us went under and we quickly found ourselves on an island.

In the dramatic week that followed, I saw the shortcomings of our disaster recovery plan. But it was the months following that proved the most valuable, as they led to the birth of the ground-breaking Bizeo monitoring system that we’re launching now.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, and so it was with Bizeo.

Putting out fires

After the water receded, we suddenly had a lot of problems, including unreliable telephone exchange and power supply, which our business depends on. We were also very busy helping customers in similar or worse situations.

Even six months later, we were still fighting fires. Telstra had problems with its exchange and our internet connections were up and down — not good when you’re hosting websites for some of Australia’s largest and highest profile charities.

As many businesses were focused on just staying afloat, our cash flow took a large hit and our pipeline was thin. Customers had trouble paying invoices, sales were almost non-existent, and websites and other services that we hosted were going down and customers were telling us before we knew ourselves!

There weren’t enough hours in the day to keep track of it all, and our previously methodical processes and reporting systems just couldn’t cope.

Finding inspiration

I realised that I spent much of my days checking things and worrying about what might be wrong that I was unaware of. I felt like I was no longer across everything, which made me very nervous.

I needed to know where every aspect of the business stood at that moment. So I launched a project to find the best way to keep tabs on our IT equipment, websites and infrastructure. Here’s what we tried:

  1. We tried using commercially available products. We used a website uptime monitoring tool to check the websites, but it couldn’t check our web services.
  2. We tried something that would monitor our servers, but it was incredibly complex and couldn’t check the power supply.
  3. We tried a dashboard system on our CRM database, but it couldn’t check the account system (and why do these dashboards always have hundreds of graphs and controls?).
  4. Then there was a heap of data we just couldn’t get access to, such as data stored in Excel spreadsheets, from the web and that had to be collated manually by staff.

What we really needed was a business monitoring system that could monitor all of our systems 24/7, be accessible from anywhere, including a mobile phone, and be incredibly simple to use. A portable, simple, powerful alert system. Was that too much to ask?

The Eureka moment

The Eureka moment came when I realised that it wasn’t just about knowing when things were wrong. I needed peace of mind all the time, even when all was well with the business!

This led to Bizeo, a ground-breaking cloud-based monitoring tool that I now place behind only the telephone and email in terms of its importance to my business life.

It does exactly what I needed it to – constantly measures hundreds of KPIs across my business no matter where they’re located or how many systems we have. It has a single indicator that’s green if everything is ok and red if something isn’t. If it’s red, I just double-click the icon, find out which KPI is causing trouble and fix it.

So, at a glance, I have peace of mind about my business – even if I’m on holidays and all I have is a smartphone! And it’s not complicated – obviously I don’t have time for complicated. I finally feel like I’m across everything!

In the 18 months since, we’ve filed for a patent for the concept and won a significant assistance grant from Commercialisation Australia, something that will prove incredibly important as we take Bizeo to the global market.

I know that my business would’ve bounced back from the floods much quicker if I’d had this tool two years ago. And I would’ve slept better! By comparison, this Christmas was one of the most relaxing I’ve ever had, despite the business being more complex than before the flood.

Now I feel disaster-ready. And I can’t wait to tell other business owners all about it, so they can be ready too!

Note: I’d love to see you at the launch of Bizeo on 24 January. You can register at http://www.bizeo.com.au/events/launch.

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