Boosting Productivity and Lowering Costs: It's A Tech Thing
Ramon Ray is a Technology Evangelist and the Editor of Smallbiztechnology.com.
Sometimes I’m doing something on the computer that makes me so productive.
For example, when I’m receiving input from a large number of people, I don’t want the information received in my email box. Instead, I build a Google form and have it nicely archived as a database.
If I want to call an associate in Mexico, instead of using my cell phone or landline, I’ll call via Skype. Calling via Skype allows me to save money and see the person I’m calling (thanks to Skype’s High Quality video calling).
My use of Twitter ebbs and flows; but I’ve found that Twitter is an awesome communications tool for broadcasting information, receiving information and polling. Plus, it’s fast and free.
What’s amazing about technology is that it enables businesses to do more than ever before, at a lower cost. As the cost of technology goes down and the productivity of businesses goes up, there is less and less of an excuse for small businesses to not be doing more, more productively, at a lower cost.
Tools like Box.net and Egnyte enable you to share all sorts of documents and have collaboration (in the case of Box.net) for a fraction of the cost of installing a traditional server with a consultant.
The growth of mobile technology, thanks to iPhone and Blackberry groupies, is simply incredible. Cell phones have been around for a long time, but as mobile devices and applications mature, businesses will continue to use them as much more than simple tools for talking. Real-time inventory updates, full customer profiles, alerts to customer purchases or complaints all become possible from your phone.
There are way too many businesses which are still using the very minimum of technology, such as just Microsoft Office and their web browser. If your business is like this, and still stuck using Excel (for everything) or a Rolodex to hold customer information you are moving too slow and wasting money and time.
What about your day-to-day business operations?
Traditionally, many of us email documents back and forth, in order to do revisions and/or gain approvals. Using a wiki, Google docs or other online collaboration tool, the document can be stored, edited and revised online. There’s no need to email documents back and forth.
What about video conferencing and long-distance telephone calls? Corporate video conferencing systems can be quite expensive, as can international telephone calls. What’s the alternative? Ensure every mobile employee has a webcam (or order notebooks with the webcam built in – that’s what I use) and get everyone a Skype account. Skype-to-Skype voice or video calls are free and calls to landlines and mobile numbers begin at just 2.1 US cents / 1.7 euro cents / 1.2 pence per minute. Hotel surcharges and other fees are bypassed, saving your business money.
What about backup? Instead of worrying and wondering if your computers are backed up, there are several vendors with “hosted” backup solutions that seamlessly and automatically backup your data to an online service.
These are just a few examples of how you can be more productive (in the case of backup – even more secure) through the productive use of technology!
Work with your local technology consultant and encourage your staff to use technology to boost their day-to-day business lives. You might want to specifically appoint someone to look at the top ten activities in your business (e.g., weekly staff meetings with remote offices, monthly budget reports, slow gigabyte file sharing transfers) and see what role technology could play to improve on all of these activities.
Technology is a tool. Use it to grow your business.