It is no surprise that as a businesses you want to reduce the cost of winning a customer and make a reasonable profit margin. And, if you have growth aspirations you will also want to create a highly productive operation that still attracts the best people. By combining your needs with the customers’ desire for online and mobile access to goods and services, you can begin to plan how to structure and run your businesses.
This guide is for SMEs who are interested in why and how many successful businesses are using Superfast Broadband and online technologies to reduce barriers to better business practice.
It will show you how you can save time and work smarter using cloud-based online services. It will also encourage you to rethink how you collaborate with suppliers, how you deliver products and services, and how you deploy staff and develop your workforce to reap greater benefits across the business.
2. What benefits might I expect?
Capital costs: Reduce capital costs and save physical space by replacing servers with hybrid or cloud-based storage that can be scaled to your needs.
Flexible IT: With minimal work, cloud-based software can ‘talk’ to each other, meaning changes to how you run your business are quick and cost effective.
Supply Chain: Consider integrating your systems to refine the information flow and address areas where outdated processes impede the value chain.
- Compliance: Additional agility in the business allows easier compliance with the quality standards required by industry norms or trading partners.
Business Intelligence: When systems collaborate across departments and divisions there is an opportunity to analyse and act on stronger market data.
Staff productivity: Cloud-based applications allow off-site staff to update information in real time rather than having to come back into the office.
Staff performance: Most cloud-based software has in-built reporting tools and dashboards to help staff perform better and co-operate more effectively.
Customer loyalty: Increase customer retention with automated marketing campaigns powered by cloud-based CRM and social media platforms.
Customer service: You can also use CRM reports and analysis to plan marketing campaigns and deliver enhanced customer support and services.
Environmental responsibility: Swap face-to-face with virtual meetings to reduce fuel consumption and win back unproductive travel time.
Energy costs: Exchanging virtual servers and cloud computing services means less need for energy-hungry servers at every office.
Protect assets: Pick cloud-based packages that automatically fix software bugs to reduce security issues and limit downtime from mandatory upgrades.
Data back-up: Reduce the risk of losing your customer, product and commercial data with cloud-based automated data back-ups.
Profit margins: Reduced outgoings, improved communication speed and greater customer engagement can lead to increased profit margins.
3. Real life example
Welsh headquartered asbestos consultancy Enquin Environmental, has achieved more than £300,000 of savings, equating to 30% of its running costs, and increased productivity by 50% using digital to transform its processes and culture.
The company recognised the need for investment in digital solutions for surveying and office management functions and today nearly all processes and systems are electronic based. This has significantly increased customer turnaround times by 50%, reducing it from four weeks to less than two.
New software saves time by automating data capture from initial enquiry to invoicing and can be cross-checked for accuracy remotely.
Clients now access their own portal to manage asbestos in their property portfolios 24/7 from anywhere in the world.
The amount of travelling by staff is reduced, as records are transferred digitally rather than being brought into the office.
Enquin surveyors are equipped with the latest technology to capture survey data and upload field reports using hand-held digital devices.
Flexible working, delivering reports on the job, and filing on a central system means the company isn’t limited by geography and is more competitive and professional.
4. Office productivity software
True office productivity and collaboration software allows for multiple users to work from the same document at the same time, and from anywhere. They are designed to work across a range of devices and operating systems, and many have specific ‘apps’ available for download. But it is always worth checking for compatibility and uptime. Uptime relates to the time the system is available online and used to provide an indication of how reliable the service is over a month.
Here are a few for you to consider; Google apps, Microsoft 365, Skype, Lync, GoToMeting, ProjectPlace, Replicon, SharePoint, Dropbox, and Exchange. Several of these technologies have areas of overlap or integration that will allow the user to have a unified experience.
From many organisations this will be from within Microsoft Outlook where the following can all be pulled through:
Emails from Exchange or Gmail
Contacts from Exchange
Shared folders and documents form SharePoint
Instant Messages, online chats, meetings and appointments from Skype
5. Considerations for systems integration for smaller businesses
Regardless of size, any company can use Superfast Broadband to power their business with online technology - and it is smaller more flexible companies that are starting from the ground up that may have an easier ride. By developing a process map of what you want to achieve now and in the future and selecting a few cloud-based applications to try before you buy, you can keep down capital costs and refine your processes as you grow.
You may decide that they want to market to customers via social media, record their information on a CRM system and set up automated communication to draw leads through their purchasing decision. Start by mapping out the overall flow of information and put this in a framework. Once you know what you want to achieve, we recommend you research which software packages are likely to be useful. Particularly spend time reading customer reviews and ask other businesses you know and trust for their experiences.
6. Considerations for systems integration for larger businesses
Large complex businesses that have multiple divisions across different geographical locations, or are part of a large supply chain, have a number considerations that their IT department can advise on. It is particularly important that you don’t introduce different software applications without thinking how they will work together, especially if you are relying on legacy systems that may be inflexible.
If you are considering an IT overhaul, the general trend is a move toward Software as a Service models. As well as cost saving, the great advantage is the flexibility it gives businesses to quickly adapt to economic and market needs because business processes are supported rather than thwarted by newer technologies. Planning will help your business to flow effortlessly by ensuring you understand how your systems work together and how they share information.
7. Working smarter once you have new systems in place
According to Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the first step is to look at the tasks you do and determine which are important and which are urgent. He identified the following matrix:
In the planning process, the key is to focus on those items that are important and manage the items that are urgent (and important). Try and include the whole team, or at least representatives of each team so you can refine processes and prevent duplication.
The main driver of this process is to make sure staff have the skills they need to perform and excel in so they save time and work smarter, and creating a learning culture within your organisation will help.
‘Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember,
involve me and I will learn.’
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
8. Planning for learning
A realistic framework for the skills that are gained across the organisation is known as the 70-20-10 framework and it’s shown in the diagram below:
10% formal learning
- Training and development programmes
- Workshops and classroom e-learning
20% learning through coaching, feedback and networks
- Coaching and mentoring
- Feedback and support from managers, work colleagues and network
70% learning on the job
- On-the-job experience
- Solving problems
- Special assignments
- Following instructions
- Reading guides and manuals
- Performance support approaches
9. Recommended action points and tips
Encourage a culture of openness: Keep hidden agendas to an absolute minimum and allow issues to be discussed openly. You are looking to build trust and mutual support, and achieving it will repay you handsomely.
Evaluate learning outcomes: It is good practice to follow a policy of looking back at all outcomes. Determine if they were expected and make sure to focus on unexpected outcomes – whether they are good or poor. Through this process, you can then refine and improve.
Introduce role models: Managers will always know who their best performers are; but others in the organisation probably don’t. Create a culture in which role models are acknowledged and they recognise that they have a responsibility to support others. Make a regular point of encouraging collaboration.
Plan for change – it’s not only about the technology: The real difference is how technology can improve the way you do business. Even before installing Superfast Broadband, you should be planning how to make the most of cloud technologies for your business.
10. Additional information
Use the Superfast Business Wales Software Directory to explore the software that could help you run your business.
Register to attend a fully-funded Superfast Business Wales workshop.
At the workshop, make an appointment to see a Business Adviser who will help you create a digital action plan to grow your business.