“Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today.”
To procrastinate is to be human. We’re great at coming up with reasons for why we can just put things off until tomorrow. When the task is mowing the grass, there’s not too much harm in procrastinating, but in business, the stakes are higher. Still, organizations procrastinate all the time — and the costs of inaction can be enormous. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing bargain.
Businesses can take incremental small steps in investing in technology now — such as implementing a new financial management solution — that will ultimately yield long-term gain. Those steps often buy an organization enough time to “conscientiously procrastinate” on larger, more challenging initiatives.
Lessons from the meltdowns
Remember Southwest Airlines’ holiday meltdown in December 2022? It was a catastrophe blamed primarily on the company’s outdated software applications. Essentially, the company waited too long to update its tech. An airline union leader said, “Southwest has never viewed technology as a strategic priority.” As a result, the company’s stock — and, of course, its customers, paid the price.
Here’s the sad thing (for customers and stockholders). The airline had already committed to improving its backend technology before the December 2022 incident and planned to implement a five-year modernization plan. But. It. Procrastinated.
Now, Southwest expects to spend about $1.3 billion in upgrades and maintenance of its IT systems this year. We aren’t privy to what Southwest was planning to spend before the meltdown, but I think we can all agree it would have been something south of $1.3 billion — if only due to inflationary price hikes.
There’s also the case of FTX. At the time of its collapse, the billion-dollar company was still running QuickBooks. Would things have worked out differently for FTX if it made the switch sooner? We’ll never know that either, but we can all agree that had the company made the switch earlier, Mr. Bankman-Fried surely would have had more difficulty claiming he was in the dark.
Even small steps lead to big progress
While Southwest now feels the pressure to make a series of big changes all at once, you have the option of taking small steps now for investing in technology. Small steps that add up to a more extensive digital transformation journey over time.
One attribute we appreciate about Sage Intacct, for example, is that as a best-of-breed solution, our clients can license the functionality they need when they need it. Many of our clients move to implement financial management, payables, and receivables tasks initially to limit the scope of the project. They then add layers of functionality like AP automation, executive analytics, or project management when that functionality is needed. Smaller incremental steps are less costly and less invasive and can serve as proof of concept for additional technology investments. Starting small and getting quick wins can start the momentum toward a culture of continuous improvement.
Just mow the lawn already
There is risk in waiting too long to move to a real business management application. Delay mowing the lawn, and you may irk the neighbors. Delay investing in technology, like upgrading your business systems, and you risk losing your market share, damaging your reputation, becoming a target for fraud — or becoming obsolete. Every growing business can learn something from Southwest Airlines’ missteps and FTX’s failure. The longer you wait, the more risk you expose.