Most people and companies are interested in being more efficient but they are not sure where to start. It can be a very daunting task. You have to remember that it is constant journey not destination. You have to take it step by step. The secret is to choose one item and focus on making it better and then focus on the next. Simply focus on continuous improvement instead of instant gratification. Each step will bring you closer to your goal and will help you perfect the process of improving.
Here are some suggestions of where you can look to find the first step:
1. Paperwork processes (Workflow)
Most businesses have processes that pass paper between departments for signatures in order to get something done. As an example, you may have a process for requesting a check that has to be signed by your manager and then by the manager of the Accounting/Finance department in order to get a check created to send to a vendor.
Many times these kinds of processes are a great focus to utilize technology to streamline the workflows. Instead of having paper wandering around the building a system will track the flow from step to step.
2. Document management
How many file cabinets full of paperwork do you have in your office? How much effort is exerted to find, pull, and then put away documentation? What happens if someone needs access to paperwork when they’re out of the building?
Document management software is probably one of the best places to focus if you don’t already have it. The benefits of virtualizing your documents are really endless. From searching capabilities to disaster recovery options the benefits will likely outweigh the expense in a very short timeframe.
3. Recurring tasks
Do you have to print a specific report every Friday morning and deliver it somewhere? What types of actions do you have to do to close out the week/month/quarter? Are your people spending going through reports each month?
As a general rule, if there are specific criteria that you are providing to a recurring task it’s probably possible to automate it. Imagine your employees being able to create new business instead of reviewing those reports or hand processing that data every month.
4. Mobile Communication
There is no question that mobile communication has revolutionized the business world. This is an area where having a Blackberry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, etc. can definitely give you flexibility but can also make your business more efficient. How often do other people wait on answers from their managers in order to proceed to the next step in the process? With a mobile communication option that answer can come even without the manager having to be in the office.
You can also add the ability to have your business systems interact with mobile devices. That interaction can keep key players involved even when they are not physically available.
5. Dashboard style reporting
Using dashboards instead of standard reporting allows you much more real-time information on your business. They show you the status of your business at a specific time and they give you indicators of what’s going on.
6. Intelligent Alerting
Instead of having to constantly review your reports to find red flags you can utilize Intelligent Alert systems. This type of system extends on the dashboard described above by allowing you to set specific criteria that should notify you of issues. The system will then monitor your systems for those criteria to occur and let you know if they do occur.
Do you send follow-ups to your prospects? What about when you receive payment to say thank you? Or maybe to delinquent accounts? Follow-ups are typically something that can be fairly easily automated. By setting up the systems to automate your follow-ups you never miss that necessary contact with people. You can send postcards, emails, or even letters no matter what else you have going on that day.
8. Virtual Office
Virtual office configurations are becoming a must have for many efficient businesses. Utilizing virtual office makes it much easier to have people work non-standard hours and to be able to support a small business during the entire day. It has also helped improve morale at many companies. Other advantages include making your business more green, ability for traveling employees to stay connected, decreased office space expenses, and many others. It can be a very efficient use of technology for many businesses.
I have only scratched the surface of the opportunities available to use technology to make you and your business more efficient.
What are some other ways that you have used technology to be more efficient??