Small changes to your business efficiency can make large differences to your bottom line.
Here are some tips for using technology to turn your business into a lean, mean, operating machine.
1. Keep your systems cutting-edge, or at least up-to-date. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your employees and annoy your customers. In some cases, an employee might become burned out and decide to move on. To help ensure that employees are productive and satisfied, your business needs a secure, reliable, and fast network.
2. Use an Electronic Calendar. If you still have six different daily planners and sticky notes plastered all over your office, you may be spinning your wheels. Consolidate everything you do into one calendar you can access from anywhere. If you use Microsoft Outlook for e-mail, you already have a great calendar, complete with to-do lists and appointment reminders that show up on your right pane anytime you’re checking e-mail. Better yet, your calendar is available on the web from anywhere.
3. Go wireless. Not only will this allow you to print to the closest printer no matter where you are in the office, your clients will appreciate the ability to get online while in your office for meetings. You’ll also be able to save money and time on hard-wiring all of your devices.
4. Go paperless. By scanning and storing files securely on a server that is regularly backed up, you can eliminate the need to pay for file storage space. This will also help make your small business more mobile. As you strive for a paperless office, encourage your employees to print less and save files to the server instead of printing them. Consider automating any forms you use and transferring customer paperwork to your company website.
5. File sharing software. Consider a service like Sugar Sync and Syncplicity, which automatically back up your files to a central server that allows your team to always access the latest version of all files. This prevents your team from getting confused about which version is the latest.
6. Cloud-based solutions. Technology solutions are available that can help your small business operate more efficiently without hiring additional staff or buying expensive equipment. Everything from your full-time receptionist to the servers that hold all of your files can be replaced by an automated system, in many cases for a small monthly fee.
7. Give employees secure, consistent access to information. You have an advantage over larger competitors because you can react quickly to business changes. But you can quickly lose this edge if your company network is frequently down, sluggish, or unsecured. A secure, reliable network based on intelligent routers and switches lets your employees access the information and tools they need to keep ahead of competitors.
8. Deliver anytime, anywhere access to employees on the go. To stay productive on the move, your employees need to be able to reach the people and information they need—anywhere, anytime. With tools like virtual private networks (VPNs), your employees can work outside the office and still enjoy safe access to the business network.
9. Create effective business processes with partners. Some large companies make efficient, secure business processes a prerequisite for doing business with them. To meet the business needs of your partners, you need a secure, reliable network.
10. Make it easy to work together. Smooth collaboration between employees, partners, suppliers, and customers is a sure-fire way to boost efficiency while also reducing costs. An intelligent network lets your business take advantage of interactive calendaring, videoconferencing, unified communications, and other technologies for easy collaboration.
11. Enable employees to take their phone systems wherever they go. Missed calls create project delays, wasted opportunities, and lost revenues. With a networked voice and data solution, your employees can have one phone number that rings simultaneously on multiple devices, so customers reach the right person the first time. Your staff can access all their communications from anywhere, checking for e-mail, voicemail, and faxes from just one inbox.
12. Streamline customer communications. Delivering fast, knowledgeable service is the best way to keep customers satisfied. Linking your network phone system to a customer relationship management (CRM) solution is a great way to enhance customer communications. When a customer calls, a pop-up window with their records appears on an employee's IP phone screen, computer screen, or both.
13. Reduce unproductive travel time. All too often, time spent on the road is time lost. A networked phone solution that offers video calls and Web conferencing can help reduce the time and expense of traveling to offsite meetings and training sessions. Instead of spending time traveling, you can use the time to get work done with technology.
14. Employ a managed service provider. Is managing a network the best use of your employees' time? In some situations, it is advantageous to hire a managed service provider for network administration. Working with a managed service provider can free your IT staff to focus on other IT tasks and use their time more effectively.
15. Keep your systems cutting-edge, or at least up-to-date. Aging phone systems and slow networks can frustrate your employees and annoy your customers. In some cases, an employee might become burned out and decide to move on. To help ensure that employees are productive and satisfied, your business needs a secure, reliable, and fast network.
16. Develop a long-term technology plan. The process of replacing obsolete hardware can interrupt your employees and bring the office to a standstill. You can minimize such disruptions by carefully determining short- and long-term business objectives and working with your network vendor to deploy technology that matches them.