Small businesses are often more agile than their larger competitors, and their speed of response and flexibility is usually an advantage as companies grow. However, they often find that technology can be a source of frustration rather than reaping the benefits of increased efficiency, cost savings and increased revenue that technology is meant to bring.
So how do you exploit the benefits of technology to benefit your business? Here are our 5 top tips for using technology to make your business more efficient. First, ensure systems talk to each other.
1. Ensure systems talk to each other
Getting different systems to work together, sharing data and even removing manual processes can remove many frustrations and free up staff to focus on more important things. For example, if data is transferred seamlessly from your CRM system to your ordering system to your accounts system, staff won’t have to spend hours manually transferring data, checking information, and they can work on tasks and projects to make a bigger difference to your company.
If you find that existing software packages aren’t meeting your business needs, sometimes investing in bespoke software, which can run as an app across multiple devices, can be worth considering.
Identify the opportunities to automate tasks, for example, setting up automated emails to welcome new customers or invoice reminders, makes sure that these important tasks happen even if key members of staff who would carry out these tasks are very busy, on holiday or off sick.
If you have a customer care team who receive lots of calls, ensure you analyse calls to look at ways to streamline this; for example, could FAQs on your website be used to answer the most common queries?
3. Flexible working
If staff work remotely, ensuring they have access to the equipment and data, they need to be able to work effectively. Whether staff are out and about visiting clients or based from home, ensure they can access your network easily.
Moving over to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), where you use an internet connection rather than a traditional landline for communication, can increase efficiency as well as bring cost savings. Calls can be routed easily to different devices reducing the risk of lost calls if people are working remotely.
Webinars or videoconferencing using tools such as Skype Meetings which was launched last month, can also help with team communication. If staff are finding it hard to keep track by email, a tool such as Slack can be helpful for staff to communicate with different teams set up for different conversation channels. We use Slack frequently and find that communication is more open, people know what is going on, and inboxes are less cluttered.
Always take the security of your data seriously. The impact to your business of losing data, even for a short time, can be significant.
Ensure you have adequate virus protection, backup your data regularly and test the backup to ensure that you can retrieve files and data. A recent survey found that human error accounts for 62% of all data breaches reported in the UK, so do educate staff to ensure they take data security seriously. For example, don’t open email attachments or click on web links from unknown sources. For more guidance, download our Staying Safe Online Guide here.
5. Don’t be afraid to call in the experts
As companies grow, the business owner can often be the point of contact for IT issues and frustrations, and this can start to take up a disproportionate amount of time. Getting expert advice will mean that issues are resolved quickly and with the minimum of fuss. Many companies also find that having IT support provides peace of mind. Good, IT Support companies will also monitor your systems to identify potential issues and manage your IT proactively, ensuring regular data backups, scheduling routine maintenance or software updates at a convenient time to minimise disruption to the business.