4 ways to maximize your business technology

Dawn Kirchner-King joined Armstrong Building Products in 2015 as their CIO.

She described the company as “a black-hole cost center,” where company leaders didn’t know how to maximize the use of their existing business technology. Dawn changed that.

She used tactics like standing meetings and proven project management practices to increase employee output and boost company efficiency. She also improved the Armstrong Building Products’ CRM suite, streamlining processes and enhancing the company’s customer service capabilities.

Essentially, she used the resources she had in order to help strategically grow Armstrong Building Products.

You don’t have to be a multimillion-dollar company to get the most out of your business technology. But you do have to use IT solutions strategically to grow your company. Part of that is making the most out of what already have.

To help you maximize your current resources, we’ve created a list of 4 different ways you can get the most out of your existing tech.

1. Implement automation

A great way to increase efficiency using your existing business technology is to harness the power of automation.

Even with the advancements in machine learning and robotic process automation, there are some jobs robots will never be able to do. Closing deals, brainstorming ideas, and developing company culture will always require human collaboration.

However, automating simple processes saves your employees time and allows them to focus more energy on mission-critical projects. Automation also reduces errors in tasks like data entry, posting to social media, and sending standard email replies.

2: Use dual monitors

While it may seem like a simple suggestion, giving each of your employees a second monitor increases their productivity by 20-30%. Why? With two screens, employees don’t have to spend time continually switching between different documents and browsers to enter data or compare information.

If your employees spend 3 minutes per day switching between documents, a second monitor can save them 13 hours of work per year. Multiply that number by every employee in your office, and you’ve saved yourself days of work.

Most monitors aren’t that expensive. Spending $100-$200 on a second monitor for every employee has the potential to save you thousands of dollars per year, every year.

Plus, if your employees have a work laptop, a video cable can easily turn their desktop into a second screen.

3: Train your employees

Training is a necessary expense. It’s an investment in your company’s growth. When your team is using your business technology correctly, they’re more efficient. The more efficient your employees are, the more productive they are. The more productive your team is, the easier it is to grow your business.

Training employees will greatly reduce the amount of time you’ll spend fixing policy and process-related mistakes down the line. Plus, it’ll boost your network security. When your team employs security best practices, the less likely they are to accidentally compromise sensitive information.

That being said, effective training is an ongoing process. It’s not something to do once a year. Your policies and processes will change. And as business technology evolves, you’ll use new solutions in your company. Employees need to be trained every time there are new policies, processes, or technology that affect how they perform their job.

It’s best practice to have the materials you went over in training accessible at all times. That way if your team needs a refresher, these resources are readily available.

4: Test your backups

Testing your backup methods regularly may seem obvious. However, many business owners don’t and suffer negative consequences later.

Downtime costs businesses up to $8600 per hour. It’s no surprise that 93% of companies that lost their data for more than 10 days filed for bankruptcy within a year.

Hardware fails, employees accidentally delete crucial documents, and rolling blackouts happen. If your data isn’t backed up, any one of these disasters has the potential to destroy your sensitive business data and your company’s reputation. Plus, if you can’t get back up and running quickly, your competition is more likely to edge you out while you play catch up.

That’s why it’s critical to test your backups often. We recommend testing your backups on a monthly basis at the bare minimum. You should also perform restore tests whenever you install a new application, or when an application is updated or patched.

To make sure you don’t forget, you can automate your backups. Some solutions even let you do this without interrupting employee productivity.

Using business technology to gain a competitive edge.

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There are many simple things you can do to get the most out of your current business technology. This list is a great place to start. If need further assistance, a business consultant can help you strategically get the most out of your IT solutions. And they can help you pick new, cost-effective technology that will drive your business forward.

How employee satisfaction is connected to productivity

Maintaining employee satisfaction and making sure that they put in a full day’s work without employee time theft are two of the most important considerations for any business owner. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a larger or small business size. It doesn’t even matter if you use in-house or outsourced employees.

Either way, you need a productive, focused staff. But, were you aware that there’s a close correlation between employee satisfaction and productivity? It’s true.

Satisfied employees produce 6.6% more per hour than employees who are less than satisfied. What’s more, happiness makes employees 12% more productive. Imagine getting that kind of jump in productivity without the expense and time required to hire new employees.

Ways employee satisfaction translates into productivity

Employee happiness manifests itself in a number of positive ways.

1. Happy employees are more relaxed

When an employee works in a relaxed, non-confrontational environment, they’re more relaxed. That makes sense. As a result, they have less stress. Lower stress levels allow them to focus on the job at hand rather than all of the unnecessary drama you find in far too many workplaces.

2. Happy employees want to keep their jobs

Most employees know that a really good job is a rare commodity. So when they realize their job working for you is one of those rare opportunities, they’ll be far more likely to do all they can to make sure they hang on to their current job. That definitely includes beefing up their productivity.

3. Happy employees refer more business

Happy employees are much more willing to tell their friends and family about your company’s products and services. That’s basically free advertising. Who doesn’t want more referral business for their company?

4. You’ll have a lower turnover rate when your employees are happy

Constantly hiring and training new employees can be extremely expensive. Plus, with a high turnover rate, you lose the priceless advantage of more experienced employees. Replacing an entry-level employee typically costs between 30 and 50% of their annual salary. With mid and higher-level employees, the percentage is even higher. Just maintaining your current employees can literally transform your business.

5. Happy employees work together more effectively

Another way employee satisfaction affects productivity is in the way employees work together. Happy employees are more likely to share information and skills. They’re also more likely to mentor younger employees.

6. Happy employees are more creative

Stress is the enemy of creativity. After all, when an employee is afraid for their job, it’s much less likely such an employee will go out on a limb and share a creative idea. Fear stifles creativity. If you’re concerned out-of-the-box thinking will get shot down, you think inside the box. But when employee satisfaction is high, creativity flourishes.

Employee satisfaction is a strategic tool

Finding ways to keep your employees happy isn’t just the right and kind thing to do—it’s also a smart business move.

You’ll have a more peaceful work environment and you’ll reap some impressive business benefits. Benefits like up to 12% higher productivity, lower turnover rate, and a culture conducive to creativity.

That’s why strategic business consultants are so quick to prompt business owners to boost employee satisfaction. Happy employees can make as big a difference as innovative technologies, like office automation software. What’s more, it’s typically not hard to boost employee satisfaction. Just consider what matters most to your employees, and work to address those concerns.

Workflow Automation: 4 Things Business Owners Need to Know

Back in 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at Macworld. It was an expensive device without a keyboard or stylus. It didn’t even have 3G. He called it “revolutionary.” Critics felt otherwise.

“That virtual keyboard will be about as useful for tapping out emails and text messages as a rotary phone.” – Seth Porges, TechCrunch Columnist

“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance. It’s a $500 subsidized item.” – Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft CEO

Today, the iPhone is the most popular phone in the world, by a longshot. 85.7 million Americans use the device. And Apple itself is on course to reach a $1 trillion valuation in 2018.

How? They are experts in innovation and leveraging technology to their advantage. Apple evolves with technology trends, continuously integrating these new technologies into their devices and their business model.

You can harness the power of technology to innovate your business, too. In order to remain competitive and improve business outcomes, you need to. We’re going to tell you how to get started.

“Innovation is the heart of every exceptional business.” – Michael E. Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It

Workflow automation simplified.

When you program the software your business uses to complete processes that would normally be done manually — data entry, support ticket creation, or posting to social media — you’re automating your workflow.

The core idea behind integrating automation is to boost operational efficiency and achieve continuous improvement. When routine tasks are automated, your team can focus their energy on more complex projects and business growth.

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” — Bill Gates

What to know before workflow automation integration.

The organizational and leadership implications of workflow automation are huge. And while it’s normal to want to dive right in, these are uncharted waters. You need to create a strategic plan, first.

A business strategist can help you navigate the integration process, simplifying its complexities and helping you create a successful implementation strategy. However, if you want to sail the seas of transformation alone, here are 4 things you need to consider.

  1. Document existing processes before implementation.

Loss of knowledge and skills is the “technical debt” of process automation. As you use technology to replace manual labor, you could lose some of the institutional knowledge these individuals possess.

Before undertaking automation, consult with your team on how they currently perform tasks and why they use the process they use today. Document the current process and the rationale behind them. Your employees may be incorporating strategic solutions you didn’t know were needed.

  1. Assess your priorities.

Take stock of all your current bottlenecks. The best way to approach this is to do a deep dive of your current business processes, end to end.

What steps are currently manual? Where are the easiest places to incorporate automation? What can you automate almost immediately with the least amount of resources and the lowest impact on your organization overall?

Decide which opportunities of automation will bring the most value at the lowest cost and start there.

  1. Start small. Scale later.

Heavily customized workflows are hard to troubleshoot and take more time to fix when failures occur. Additionally, large-scale automations can be costly. We recommend implementing existing solutions first.

“45% of work activities could be automated using already demonstrated technology.” — McKinsey

There are plenty of pre-designed automation tools on the market. Some are relatively straightforward. Some are more complex, like solutions that use RPA (robotic process automation) and cognitive computing technologies to improve workflows. To start, try a couple of these in one or two areas of your business. If you see ROI, integrate these innovations on a company-wide level.

  1. Appoint managers.

There are a lot of moving parts in any automated process. Ideally, every new system within your organization will be overseen by someone. This person will help spot errors and track its effectiveness.

If appointing a member of your team to manage the automation process is outside of your current scope, you can enlist the help of an expert consultant or hire a new employee.

Leverage workflow automation in your organization.

Remember, innovation is the key to success. Automating manual processes will help you increase profitability, agility, and brand value. These tips will help you decide the best place to start implementing automation within your organization.