Letting the tail wag the dog

Good software will not only help you execute a task, but can also tell you how to do it better. Companies should embrace the best practices that their technologies can teach them.


The 1998 political satire Wag the Dog gets its title from a joke: Why does a dog wag its tail? Because a dog is smarter than its tail. If the tail was smarter, the tail would wag the dog.

An analogy can be made to the use of technology in business enterprises. While many companies have adopted new technologies into their business processes, few have adapted their business processes to harness new technologies. For companies to stay competitive, this needs to change.

In Pakistan, nearly all businesses have integrated technology to some degree in their processes and operations. Email as mode of formal business communication is commonplace, Skype is a perfectly acceptable mode of video conferencing, and Whatsapp messages are increasingly being accepted by companies to receive orders from their customers and dealers.

This embrace of technological innovations is welcome, and has yielded large gains in productivity, efficiency, and cost effectiveness. However, technology continues to be viewed solely as an enabler of business improvement, not necessarily as a driver of business improvement. This is a lost opportunity. By fully utilizing the technologies available to them, companies can actually learn good business practices and put them to use in improving their own business.

As an example, the features of most online email programs typically include functionality for calendaring meetings, setting appointments and reminders, and storing and sharing documents. Implicit in the availability of these features are guidelines of good team and work management: scheduling meetings, respecting time commitments, keeping ready access to important documents, and sharing materials to keep every team member in the loop. Most users will adapt the software to suit their purposes, using it primarily only for communication. However, some organizations may choose to fully leverage the functionality and use the features to create greater structure in their work and meeting routines and improved collaboration among team members.

Most new technologies (web applications, devices, software) are designed for use and adoption by a large customer base.  To encourage mass usage of their products, designers and developers have to work hard to optimize the user experience, making it streamlined, simple and highly functional. In doing so, designers think through and implicitly build in best practices, reducing the number of process steps, automating decision making, and decreasing documentation requirements. Companies that adapt to the workflow of the software often have to change their own processes and even their organization structures. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs are a good example of best practices embedded in software, and many companies spend years in “implementation” as they reconfigure themselves to following the process best practices suggested by these ERP programs.  And when done right, companies end up better for it.

The challenge is in doing it right. Undergoing a long transformation program to become compatible with a software program is a tall request for any business. Which is why many firms will do so only for expensive ERP modules which they feel are worth it. But change need not always be disruptive or time consuming.

Khareed’s Spectrum™ Sales module is ostensibly a tool for companies to list and sell products online. However, the module can be used to dramatically improve sales team efficiency while also improving customer satisfaction and accountability.  The Spectrum module enables companies to streamline and improve their B2B sales organization without requiring expensive, disruptive or time-consuming reorganization.

Spectrum allows companies to structure their B2B sales team by one or a combination several organizational structures: product/business centric, geography-centric, or relationship centric. For small and medium organizations which do not have clear sales organizational structures or who do not know which is most suitable for them, the structure can be designed for them by Khareed based on the observed structures used most effectively by other companies in the same industry or of a similar size and maturity.

Alternatively, Khareed can use actual transaction data of a company and its clients to determine the sales organization structure that will optimally meet the company’s needs. As this organization structure only relates to the routing of customer queries online, physical disruption to the organization is minimized.

Carefully designed enterprise grade software such as Spectrum offers valuable organizational and operational efficiency lessons for companies willing to fully harness the tools embedded in it. As Pakistani businesses increasingly compete against international firms, tools such as Spectrum should be a core part of their competitive arsenal.