Don’t give up on your know-how

09 March 2021

How often does it happen that some “advisors” try to diminish the knowledge and skills of entrepreneurs? How often do service suppliers let their clients know that they manage their companies wrong? It might seem unthinkable and theoretically impossible. The reality looks quite different though, especially in agriculture.

The so-called “experts”

Of course, no one points out any companies’ discrepancies directly, but such information may often be read between the lines. Such message is usually transferred through convincing the company owners to change their production strategies while implementing the new product. The seller of the solution, so as not be forced to change anything, persuades them to make changes in their own company. This way, the seller does not have to spend time and work in order to customize some facilities, while the necessary change is forced on the client and falsely motivated through pointing out numerous errors. The buyer does not always stand for their know-how confidently enough, so they agree to modify processes, convinced for it to be the only solution. After all, an expert said so! Unfortunately though, the change works only in favour of the seller and only for him is it going to become profitable.

Agriculture and its specific processes

Why does this issue cause problems mainly in the agriculture? Because the branch grants great importance to the cultivation strategy as well as individual experience in work with given varieties. Each change, even the slightest, usually results in the loss of crop stability: plant production may prove very sensitive. The producer usually spends years on research and experiments so as to develop proper parameter settings and it adds to their expertise. And such an expert decides to facilitate something in the company, to computerise or robotise some processes and runs into a brick wall. That obstacle is understood as the “professionals” selling the new solution, because its implementation requires many organisational changes on the buyer’s side. The products (e.g. software) very often lack flexibility and as a consequence – require many changes, also in the matter of production strategy.

This isn’t good news for farmers and food industry producers. Their good practice and strategies they have been working on so hard for years are now questioned. A warning: the implied “inevitable changes” will sometimes only complicate already well-organised methods. There is no use in robotising and facilitating part of works while at the same time the producer loses money because of lower quality of crops and final products. This happens quite often when the company tries to experiment with cultivation or when it is forced to implement risky changes. Then, is there any chance for producers to modernise their businesses safely?

Modern and suitable solutions – how to find them?

Yes, there is a chance, a very profitable one. On the stage of IT improvements search, it is worth filtering the products using the elasticity criterion and by checking their ability to fit into clients’ working style. Still using the example of software suppliers: they usually promote a finished product, so that the implementation happens fast and with minimum input of the seller. The finished product is accessible in no time, so might seem attractive both for the buyer and the seller. However, if the second one does not fit into the client profile for the particular product, he has to give up their usual strategy. This is the price for a quick implementation. Thus, the first rule of choosing modern solutions for the company is: avoid finished products.

The second rule: in the offers look for keywords such as “Custom”, “tailored”, “integrated”, “needs analysis” and “implementation services”. Software suppliers which do not provide assistance during the implementation stage and do not modify the products basing on analyses should not be expected to support the clients or understand them properly.

The third rule: call and order a presentation. It is entirely free, does not oblige you to buy anything, but offers a huge amount of information about the product – not published anywhere. The sole offer is not going to reveal everything, so it is always better to email or call the producer. Trustworthy custom software creators are, against all appearances, very eager to share knowledge and useful tips during f2f meetings and videoconferences. All that with respect for clients’ methods and listening to their needs carefully. All in all – such a meeting has nothing but advantages!

System design = house design’

The project is always essential. While building a house, we spend a lot of time on determining the number of rooms, the arrangement and enlisting the basic facilities we need. A very similar situation takes place in an IT system designing. First, we prepare the list of needs, then prioritize them, next we develop a design and only after that can we build the system and perform implementation to the existing company structures. Using such a method while working with systems enables one to introduce improvements without generating additional costs, e.g. associated with changing the nomenclature or employee structure. Defining the aim of the improvements carefully and thoughtfully will not cause any unwanted revolution in an everyday life of the company, but optimize the processes that have been repetitive or laborious.

And another comparison: in case of IT products, a very accurate analogy to fast food may be found. If we expect an instant solution, its value will be similar to junk food’s. It may be obtained in no time, but in the end proves neither healthy nor cheap. If we spend some more time at the beginning (as it is with preparing a valuable meal), we will later save time and money and may expect real benefits.

Keep your know-how

Coming back to agriculture: knowledge in this branch does not come overnight. Usually the methods of cultivation are developed for years, without any possibility to shorten the process. Each innovation must wait for a whole season for effects, so getting an efficient strategy to boost the harvest is priceless for farmers. Let’s assume that the given producer wants to introduce a couple of organizational facilitation changes in the office or in production. He pays the IT company for a document flow system or traceability and suddenly he has to revolutionize his own company. Change of nomenclature, process modifications, new working methods… and all this because of a company from different branch forcing the client to implement the stiff, inelastic solution. This might still not be the end of problems. Programs sold without any customization do not save the farmer from loosing time at all. Actually, he ends up noting data on a sheet of paper to rewrite it to the system later. Where is the improvement? The money was spent on an unadjusted product that does not complete the existing process but forces the client to give up on years of trial and error. All because of the need to have an instant implementation. It was supposed to bring some convenience – a revolution came instead.

Self-confidence induces business advantage

Entrepreneurs often get caught up in a false self-obligation to make changes in order to “develop” all the time. Sometimes the development means remaining confident about the taken way and the knowledge acquired. To that knowledge and used methods one should match customized services, tailored like a good coat. The “coat” does not only look good (such as a friendly interface) but also functions properly (facilitating/shortening/securing the company processes). The owner who gains experience for years should not give it up in favor of seemingly attractive products. Only holding on to the core of the enterprise may provide success.

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