Small business owners are constantly looking for ways to boost efficiency and productivity, and are increasingly looking to technology for help. By implementing some simple, and often low-cost tech solutions, business owners can free up some time to concentrate on growing their businesses and improving cashflow.
Business Automation Software
Technology can be the great enabler of workplace productivity, but unless it is used efficiently, it can also undermine it. Take email, for example. According to software firm Atlassian the average employee receives over 300 work emails each week, and checks their email 36 times in an hour.
Business automation software such as Parker Software’s ThinkAutomation can automate 30% of a firm’s existing administration processes, including analysing information from incoming emails and responding with the correct information, or updating CRM systems and databases -- all without employee input. This frees up employees’ time and allows them to focus on the parts of their jobs that benefit their businesses and help them grow.
With more teams working flexibly and remotely, businesses need to provide them with collaboration tools that help them maintain maximum productivity. These include Powwownow’s iMeet, an all-in-one web, audio and video conferencing solution. Users can chat with contacts, make peer-to-peer voice and video calls, and quickly share information, links and files from an integrated file cabinet. It will even connect to a company’s video conference room systems.
Bring Your Own Device
Many businesses now operate a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy that allows the use of employee-owned devices in the workplace. In recent years BYOD has picked up pace within the small business community as it allows employees to work with equipment they are already familiar with, saving time spent on computer training and troubleshooting.
Parallels is a cross-platform solution that helps businesses implement BYOD for flexi-working and remote access from any device. Employees can be more efficient because they can securely and productively access their own familiar applications and files that they need to use every day on any device or operating system, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, Mac OS, Android, and Windows.
Whether they are made between remote colleagues or to customers, missed calls are a bane of business life. A new tool developed by iQela makes business mobile services more accessible to small business owners. The company has developed a SIM card which, when placed into team members’ mobile phones, allows small businesses to better manage their incoming and outgoing calls -- much like a switchboard at a larger company.
It means that business calls are never missed as they are effectively re-routed to the right person, at the right time. It provides customers with one single number for the business, and tells other colleagues when a team member is available to take calls, or where to re-route calls if they are not. There are no start-up fees or contracts and rates are extremely affordable, making the technology accessible even for smaller businesses.
Productivity Apps for Remote Working Employees
A tech tool for employee engagement is one item that companies should have on their list of efficiency essentials. Peakon is a real time people analytics platform that provides automated employee feedback, and measures engagement and motivation to help businesses create happier and more productive work environments. Remote working is a particularly good use case for Peakon in terms of collecting feedback and having conversations that could otherwise be lost because of a lack of personal contact between managers and employees.
Day-to-day there are a myriad of processes which could be improved with access to timely and detailed information.
Online Training and Development
One of the challenges for businesses in the age of remote and flexible working is how to deliver crucial staff training to a group of people in different locations. However, in the age of online training, they have access to a range of online sources for delivering webinars and workshops, including GoToWebinar and ClickWebinar, which have a range of pricing plans, and as well as the free webinar software services offered by Skype and Google Hangouts.
Smart Meters for Efficient Energy Use
Within the day-to-day running of a small business there exists a myriad of processes which, with access to timely, detailed and accurate information, could boost efficiency and save money. Energy metering is one of such processes currently benefiting from a widescale tech upgrade. Smart meters, available to both homes and eligible small businesses, provide accurate, near real time information on energy use, making it easier to budget and identify where efficiencies can be made.
Another business advantage is the removal of the hassle of meter readings: “Instead of relying on estimates or manual meter readings, smart meters will communicate usage data to your energy supplier directly and digitally,” says Claire Maugham, director of policy and communications at Smart Energy GB. “This means your supplier will have more accurate, up to date information and therefore you will get more accurate bills.”
Easier Expense Processing
The business expense process, filing receipts and completing expense application forms, is an essential task, but one that can be a huge drain on staff and management time. ExpenseIT is a tool that enables employees to submit expense receipts anywhere at anytime, just by taking a picture with their phone. It avoids the need for spreadsheets and similarly archaic processes, and reduces the time investment, letting people spend more time on their actual job.
Office Management Made Simpler
Office ordering is another essential but laborious business task, chiefly because things like stationery, coffee, and cleaning products have to be ordered from multiple suppliers. A new tech solution in the shape of digital service partner Service Partner ONE promises to streamline the office ordering process by facilitating it from a single platform, saving time and money. The company says it has saved office managers 30% of their time by cutting back on invoicing, research and dealing with suppliers.
Signing documents electronically is an efficient alternative to the time consuming scanning, signing, saving and mailing of paper-based signatures. Under recent EU regulation, electronically signed documents are as legally binding as paper based signatures. Many firms are turning to e-signature software, such as Signable, that can send documents to clients, securely and efficiently.
The software has the added value of being fully transparent, allowing both parties to monitor proceedings by providing an audit trail showing when signed documents were opened and by who, reducing the time that could otherwise be spent in dispute resolution.