Business Engineering

Properly configuring your business apps is actually crucial to your bottom line

Written by
Yoni Argaman
VP Marketing
March 23, 2023
min read

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I’m here to make the argument that there’s a correlation between a company’s growth and its underlying operational excellence. And that one cannot achieve operational excellence without business system configuration excellence. (Which is a mouthful, I will admit.)

Here’s why: Most changes—internal initiatives or reactions to external market swings—must be encoded in your business systems. Otherwise, the company can’t react or initiate change. If the world suddenly shifts and the executives cry “Let’s try usage-based pricing,” but the go-to-market and ERP teams cannot implement a usage-based model, no change occurs.

It doesn’t matter how vigorously executives spin the wheel—it’s not connected to the rudder.

Business systems are how strategy becomes reality

If they're a mess, it's all just talk.

As a company grows, internal configuration disorder only worsens. Business systems acquire more environments, suffer under more hands, and creak under more integrations. And this is not just a question of system continuity. If a company didn’t learn to configure business systems while small, change grinds to a halt when large.

But what if there’s a way to reclaim your former agility? Configuration management systems can do that namely by reducing costs, mitigating risks, and helping your operators respond quicker.

Want to hear more?

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A configuration management system can reduce your costs

Today’s business application administrators and developers are deluged with manual tasks. Without help, they fall further and further behind. Most companies respond by throwing bodies at the problem, which means payroll costs spike.

The cycle works like this: 

  1. Operators need progressively more time to understand the impact of proposed changes
  2. They also need more lead time to actually deploy those changes
  3. Your high-value personnel spend what little remaining time they have fixing low-value issues
  4. This degrades operator satisfaction and leads to churn
  5. Churn means brain drain, which means …
  6. Workflows break and you lose revenue opportunities, which means …
  7. It takes new operators even more time to understand what’s configured
  8. And the cycle continues

When the above cycle is at play, you need to continue hiring, retaining, and replacing staff at a higher rate just to accomplish the same amount of work. You get progressively less from the staff you do hire. And worst of all: They only ever have time to react, not to plan.

When operators don’t get to plan, investigate broken workflows, and consolidate tools, you run into even more unforeseen costs. They don’t catch that the quote-to-cash pipeline is about to break, for example, and when it does, it takes them longer to repair it. 

This creates three big costs: 

  1. Higher payroll—Churn-related hiring, retention, and training costs
  2. Lower labor utilization—High-value employees spend time on low-value tasks
  3. Lost revenue opportunities—From broken flows, tech debt, and downtime

One way to fight this tide is to implement a configuration management and automation over your business systems to:

  • Automate manual configuration tasks (e.g. deployments)
  • Reduce the time needed to plan and implement configuration changes
  • Preempt and prevent broken workflows
  • Help the team continuously improve
  • Fight burnout

This can free your valuable (and expensive) human capital so they’re doing more than just chasing tickets and fixing issues. It gives them visibility into the current configuration so they don’t have to spend hours or days evaluating the impact of proposed changes. It lets them set alerts for important configurations, and it allows them to document changes so they can investigate better, collaborate more, and maintain institutional knowledge. 

It can help you mitigate risks

If your company’s business systems prevent it from evolving fast enough to stay competitive, then you lose the growth game. Salto founder Rami Tamir calls this state tech debt paralysis. Leaders can see where the business needs to go, but are tormented because they’re always feeling out-maneuvered by competitors.

That’s the biggest risk of all. Internal configuration hangups slow you down. Your business can’t quickly apply strategy changes or focus quickly enough to react to the market. Thus, you lose the ability to move fast and remain competitive, and over time, you lose market share.

That’s the biggest risk of all. Your business can’t quickly apply changes … and you lose market share

But there are many additional shorter-term risks, too: 

1. Heavy customization makes your go-to-market workflows fragile

Business systems have become platforms. Companies customize them to such a degree—often with third-party contractors and agents—these applications sometimes do unexpected things. They become fragile, and the more you grow, the more fragile they become. And when a workflow breaks, it means salespeople don’t book meetings. 

2. Business system downtime

Then there’s the danger that if someone changes a vital configuration, nobody else knows how to repair it. These business systems don’t exactly leave documentation. The activity logs don’t tell your operators who made that change or why, so they struggle to diagnose the issue.

3. Unfixable bugs and errors

When business systems are complex enough to each be their own operating system, you get bugs and human error. If someone accidentally deletes a field without realizing that others’ reports and workflows rely on it, it can disrupt work. Today, how does your team figure out who deleted that field? And can they easily “undo” that error? 

4. Unknowable compliance risk

Finally, there’s the compliance risk. How do you know if your ERP is SOX compliant if they can’t track administrators? Or how does your team confirm you aren’t violating privacy or credit card compliance laws if they can’t easily see what customer information you hold? 

That’s why companies need a configuration management layer. It will allow your team to:

  • See who made which changes and when
  • Set alerts for changes to important workflows
  • Revert to past configurations to remediate issues

It can help you restore corporate agility

When a business application administrator or developer doesn’t have the luxury of making the best decision, they make the best available decision. The plural of that happening across teams for years is called technical debt. 

Over and over, operators without full visibility or context make tiny configuration changes that, in sum, solidify into internal architecture. Eventually, those customizations force people to conform to the business systems rather than the business systems conforming to the people. (You’ll hear it in the phrases, “That’s just how the system works,” or, “It’s annoying, but you have to do this.”)

These limitations then seep into the culture. Eventually, people see inefficiency as normal. And then, the people are no longer in the maze—the maze is in the people, to paraphrase Deepak Malhotra.

This slowness is why startups so easily out-innovate their larger peers. It’s why a company like Adobe must pay $20 billion for a company like Figma. 

When your team has tasted the maze, they grow frustrated and disenchanted. That leads to turnover, compounding maintenance debt, and a loss of institutional knowledge of the sort that caused Twitter to face rolling outages after Elon Musk fired the entire DevOps team. And when the people who remain change the configuration, they do so in silos, bumping around in the dark and reconfiguring each others’ wiring. 

It’s a recipe for the precise opposite of excellence. 

But if you deploy a configuration management layer, you expose all this rot to warm, disinfecting sunlight. It allows everyone to see what everyone else is doing, among lots else: 

  • Retain knowledge—new employees can easily explore audit logs and a history of configuration changes (which speeds up onboarding)
  • Increase visibility into your system configuration (see, search, adjust)
  • Collaborate on changes in Git and break down barriers between teams
  • See what others are working on, and how it’ll impact their own work
  • Apply patterns that work in one business system to another
  • Share common tools, processes, best practices as well as transferable skills across disparate business systems
  • Share one common language across different systems

Want to hear more?

Drive operational excellence with Salto

Book a demo ≥Book a demo ≥

Cut costs, reduce risks, and foster operational excellence

For your team to achieve excellence, they need the automation and configuration management layer that Salto provides. They need a way to do more with less, audit work, and revert to past configurations. They need to collaborate so everyone’s work levels up to what it’s supposed to—agility for the business. 

That way, when executives cry, “We must try usage-based pricing,” the business systems team does it within a year—like New Relic did.

A company that configures greatly has an opportunity to grow and prosper. It’s not everything, but it’s a necessary component if you’re going to respond to a market that’ll only continue to change faster.

Written by
Yoni Argaman

Yoni is the VP Marketing at Salto. A veteran of Fyber, Yahoo and Amazon, where he held marketing and product roles, Yoni is passionate about basketball, writing and traveling and is a devoted Tolkien fan.

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