Efficiency is the Holy Grail that every business wants to chase. If you can take your personnel and equipment and arrange them in the way that produces the maximum amount of goods and services from the time you have available then you’re on to a winner – especially if you can do this better than your opponents.
How many businesses are truly efficient? The answer is probably very few. Show me a business that says it is efficient and you’ll merely have an example of one that is complacent. Almost a third of small businesses surveyed by Canon said they spend too much time on admin and not enough on generating new business, one of many signs that things aren’t running as smoothly as they could.
The challenge and the opportunity both lie in technology. Technology constantly throws up new and innovative ways of altering the way we work – providing us the chance to steal a march on our rivals and find that extra five or ten per cent. Invest in and deploy the right software and hardware and you could become more efficient – sit still and your business can very quickly look slow-moving and behind the times.
This shouldn’t be about ‘tech for tech’s sake’ either. This is technology as a means to an end and that end should always be efficiency.
So, which operations should you look to improve through technology? Here are five key ones to consider:
Phones have become necessities for employees. They are used for staying in touch both in and out of the office enabling a rapid response to client and customer inquiries. Smartphones have provided access to the internet, emails and business applications on the go in a small handheld device. Email, text messaging, social networking and other advances in communication will keep businesses connected to their clients and customers – and provide platforms for effective marketing.
Efficient businesses need to be able to harness this. You might wish to issue company phones but in an era where tech moves on you can probably rely on your employees to have access to better tech at a quicker pace. In which case, it’s better to search out project management software (more on this later) that is easy to access remotely – meaning any employee with a smartphone can provide an update on their work wherever they might be. This can vastly speed up delivery times and avoid the need for lengthy meetings or calls to address to small details.
Technology brings businesses closer to their clients and customers. As we’ve seen businesses can use emails and social media to answer questions quickly, but they can also use easily-available technology to offer online chats that can offer avoid customers having to spend too long finding answers to simple queries. Consider how to build in online chats and search for effective ways employees can monitor and run your social media channels as this has become the ‘front line’ in customer service for the digital age. Technology needs to keep the ‘people element’ in mind and try not to skimp on training employees in good customer service principles. Your technology is, after all, only as good as the people who use it.
How well do you know what’s going on in your business? Who is doing what and when – and how does their task fit into the bigger picture? It can be daunting for businesses to keep on top of what is going on on a day-to-day basis but a failure to do so could spark trouble. Project management software knits your organisation together and overcomes and potential issues. People can be allocated tasks – and deadlines for this work – and updates and messages can be shared with everyone working on a particular project. Managers get an at-a-glance view of what’s going on and employees get to see where they fit into the grand scheme of things.
As we’ve discussed above, access is key here too. Having a system that anyone and everyone can safely, securely and swiftly access on the go boosts communication and productivity.
It’s expensive – and time consuming – to have to travel to lots of business meetings. Conferences over the phone have long since helped to cut this, but advancements over recent years have brought us web conferencing. With good internet connections and webcams, businesses can see and work together online, saving time and money while still letting everyone involved see, share and annotate the same documents, for example. By breathing new life into meetings, you can ensure that they are more productive (for too many business meetings aren’t) at the same time as cutting the time and cost involved.
Automation is something of a buzzword at the moment – with countless ‘the robots are coming’ scare stories circulating in the media. The truth, however, is that this has been around for an awful long time, it’s just that the scale and the scope of this is growing.
Retailers and wholesalers have long used barcodes to record sales and perform stock control. Now, mobile barcode scanning software takes this established practice and allows for businesses to collect, analyse and act on real-time data, speeding up purchasing decision and the stock control process. This is, in essence, is at the heart of the drive to greater automation. If hardware and software can collect and process data in the blink of an eye it allows some functions – accounting, stock control, data collection – to be done quicker, freeing up workers to focus on money-making activities.
The key for business is to consider what it is about their operation that eats up most time and money. They should then pinpoint this and look for ways in which technology can help. Automation, conferencing, project management, customer service, and communication are five fundamental ways to do this – but there are bound to be more that fit you and your business. Make it your mission to review your operations and find better ways of using technology to boost efficiency and you’ll stand a good chance of making your business run smoother.