IT can sometimes feel like a necessary evil if you’re a decision maker in a business. Without it, you’d have no business at all – but the structure that it provides comes at significant cost.
The truth is, IT is far more than just a necessary evil – but, if you want to make the most from tech, you need to be willing to explore what it can do for you – rather than how you can best work around the limitations that your spend or experience put on your company.
You don’t have to break the bank to make IT work for you, instead, you’ve just got to explore the options and find the smartest way of working…
Generally speaking, the human part of any IT process is the most insecure and inefficient; if you needed proof, a recent study discovered that around 59% of downtime is due to human factors. Compared to computers, we’re slow, and we make random errors – which is exactly why hosted telephone systems stand to revolutionise the efficiency that we get from both our computers and our staff.
A hosted telephone system does away with the need for copper line technology and exchanges – instead using your IT network and Voice over IP tech. As a result, phones become input devices with which your customers can directly interact with your systems – safely of course.
If you spend a lot of time on the phone to your customers, hosted phone services may be able to automate a lot of what you do. From automated card payment services that your customers can connect with without the need to engage staff, to auto-transcription services that will prevent the need for your team to spend a long time inputting details into a CRM system – hosted phones don’t just unlock time for your staff, they’re often far cheaper than there less-sophisticated predecessors.
Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD WAN for short) is a revolutionary new kind of network component that lets you control your business IT infrastructure without necessarily having to get an engineer to roll their sleeves up.
Traditionally, devices require some element of engineer contact to operate – whether that’s adjusting physical switches or simply reorganising connections and layout. An SD WAN system is a software overlay that operates as an additional layer to your infrastructure, providing a portal that allows you to adjust settings on virtually every networked device from anywhere you can get online access.
The result? Well, since you or your IT team can virtually get ‘hands on’ with your network from anywhere in the world, SD WAN opens up a world of possibility relating to your location, your network locations, and bringing additional services online quickly – expanding the possibilities of what’s feasible for your company.
A recent study into collaboration discovered something surprising. While we might expect to work better as part of a team if we’re in an office with those other people, the opposite is actually true – we are found to work more effectively as part of a team if we’re collaborating remotely – with individuals becoming up to 10% more effective.
This is an exciting revelation – since it increases staff working flexibility – especially for businesses who offer work from home positions or work with freelancers and contractors making up part of their workforce.
Fortunately, there’s a world of online collaboration tools that make this kind of teamwork possible. From project management tools to instant messenger features, cloud-computing makes the world a much smaller place for any team you manage.
Software as a Service
In day gone by, we had to rely on licences to unlock the software we wanted to use. Microsoft was a big player in the licence game – if you bought workstations for your team, you then had to follow that up with thousands of dollars of ‘keys’ – passwords that would allow you to unlock and access the Office suite.
Cloud computing has changed this model – and, thanks to these changes, even small businesses can get onboard with high-quality software for a fraction of the overall price. How does it work? Well, the model is called Software as a Service (SaaS) – and it’s essentially a subscription service that gives you access to the programs you want as long as you’re paying the monthly rate.
The real beauty of SaaS is the agility it gives your IT set up. Expanding and taking on more people? Simply add them as users to the package you currently pay for. If money’s tight and you need to scale things back a little – just cut down on the amount of users you have – or reduce the access they have to certain applications.
There’s no right way or wrong way to handle SaaS – instead, you get the flexibility to make the applications that underpin your team’s day work for your business.
Customer relationship management
Many companies don’t use a CRM (customer relationship management) tool – but, when you understand quite how powerful they can be, it seems extremely short-sighted that anyone would pass up the opportunities they make possible.
A CRM system essentially logs every opportunity your business sees – then tracks them through their full lifecycle. Typically, a CRM will have ways of interrogating your customer data, so you’ll be able to find opportunities that are yet to convert, existing customers, previous customers, customers who are in the process of ordering – and so forth. You can adapt a good CRM to meet your needs and reflect your workflows perfectly – so they become second nature for you team to use.
In 2018, a study into the use of CRM systems showed that they can improve conversions rates by up to 300%; reduce lead generation costs by almost 25%, and up customer satisfaction levels by over 75%. Since an online CRM system is likely to cost you just a few dollars per user each month, it could represent the kind of ROI that you simply will not see anywhere else.