Business owners typically have a number of complex situations to resolve, whether they’re trying to expand their footprint or simply break even. When facing these challenges, the last thing a business needs is any further complexity.
For instance, introducing tech can increase efficiencies, through supporting collaboration, communication and automation. Yet many businesses lack the in-house skills to deploy and manage these technologies cost effectively. Although every company has different objectives – for example a florist might look to expand its delivery radius, while a construction contractor’s main concern may be safety and compliance – wasting resources, whether time, money or both, is not an option.
From the outset, it should be easy for businesses to buy technologies that enable them to reach their objectives – whether that’s increased productivity, reduced costs, or a mixture of the two. One obvious way of doing this is by buying bundled solutions that package complementary applications together. The classic example of this is packages such as Microsoft Office or Open Office; giving businesses not only the necessary capabilities of a word processor, and spreadsheet and presentation capabilities, but allowing them to transfer content seamlessly between each application.
However, this reaches far beyond office software. Take communications, for instance. A florist may need to not only make phone calls, but increasingly use instant messaging and even video conferencing to share images and information between nurseries, delivery drivers and customers. At the same time, the more these applications can integrate, the more useful they will be for employees, and the more productive those employees will be. Managing multiple applications would mean paying for multiple software licenses, and then managing and renewing every single one; as well as educating employees on how each one works. Purchasing a single, unified communications bundle featuring applications that already interact seamlessly with one another can give businesses a comprehensive solution containing all the technologies they need to support a modern, flexible workforce.
Technology also needs to be simple as possible to install in order to maximise its benefit for organisations. For example, if a building contractor needs to install miles of cables or specialist hardware on a temporary site just to communicate effectively, the investment may be simply too much to contemplate – leading to reduced communications with workers and potentially affecting site safety. As a result, when purchasing software you should ensure the application can run on mainstream operating systems and their existing infrastructure. It’s even better if this software is available in the cloud, as it removes the need to purchase and integrate additional hardware; removing the need for in-house expertise, and also making upgrades and maintenance faster and more cost-effective.
The cloud also allows employees to access applications when and where they need them, which is especially advantageous for businesses with remote workforces. To support this mobility, many employees rely on connected devices, such as smartphones and laptops which enable them to stay productive from wherever they are. However, for this system to work, any software needs to be interoperable across a range of devices, so that workers on smartphones and tablets can interact with those on laptops, or even those on desktop computers at head office.
Technology can be as cost-effective and simple to buy and install as possible; but if it isn’t adopted by users, it’s still worthless. For example, if labourers decide that the corporate communications technology doesn’t suit them, at best they will fall back on communicating in their own way – making the whole process more complex and subject to errors. At worst, they won’t communicate at all, eliminating the safety benefits of keeping in touch. The use of solutions that a business has not approved, and consequently has no control over, could also expose workers and the business itself to security risks. This is especially true if any unapproved solution allows the sharing of data. To minimise the risk of employees using unapproved solutions, you need to not only ensure solutions are easy to buy and install, but that they are user-friendly.
If technology is difficult or inconvenient to use, adoption may be slow or non-existent and you may find yourself needing to invest additional resources just to drive uptake. To promote the use of technologies and achieve the efficiencies they promise, companies need to implement technologies that the majority of the workforce is already familiar with, or closely resemble solutions that employees already choose to use. For example, Skype has become an almost universal video-conferencing application, which many use to connect with friends and family. Consequently, if businesses can adopt a solution that’s similar to Skype, but has additional functionality for business use, such as integration with other communication channels, businesses should find adoption much easier to drive.
As resources are often limited, it’s critical that the technologies businesses choose to boost efficiencies are straightforward to buy, install and use – without costing an arm and a leg. If software requires additional expensive hardware or requires extensive training to use, any productivity gains you seek to gain through the adoption of technology will be outweighed by the initial investment. Similarly, if these solutions are difficult to use or manage, company adoption will be slow or non-existent – wasting both time and money.