With an estimated 100,000 UK businesses now using online software to grow, new technology is again revolutionising the small business sector.
But adopting technology to grow your business isn’t an easy decision to make , from a CRM system to accounting software how do you then manage and review the new systems and tools you have in place? How do you make sure they’re efficient and truly paying for themselves?
In this short guide, we’ll run you through the importance of using smart technology; while also being mindful about how you use this technology. We’ll also look at how you review and measure the effectiveness of your software choices – and how to get the best out of your own businesses processes.
By following our six point guide you’ll get the most out of your technology business:
- Step 1 – Make the right choices
- Step 2 – Think about your processes
- Step 3 – Evaluate and update your systems
- Step 4 – Fix what bothers you
- Step 5 – Create a positive feeling of engagement
- Step 6 – Be smart about technology
But first off, let’s start with making the right decisions about the software tools you choose.
Make the right choices
When you’re adopting new technology for your business you need to be clear about your objectives. This means considering your software choices carefully. Using technology for technology’s sake is not an option – these tools need to work well, provide solutions and really add the intended value.
It’s also worth looking at how your peers and competitors have implemented new systems. How have they harnessed new technology to make their business more successful? What can you learn from their choices? Ultimately, though, every system is different so you’ll need to choose applications that really work for your business and business model.
Start by thinking about what outcome you’re aiming for. A good way to do this is think about the initial business problem you’re trying to solve:
- What’s the problem?
- Could software resolve this by introducing a more bootstrapped process?
- What specific software is most suited to creating a solution?
Think about the process
So, you’ve identified the business problem and you’ve thought about how a software solution might resolve the issue. At this point you’ll need to think about how the technology will fit into your existing processes.
You’ll need to take a step back and really take an objective view of the procedures you currently have in place. Asking the right questions at this point will really highlight how effective your current processes are:
- Is there a particular reason why the process has always been done this way?
- Is there any justification for continuing to do it this way?
- Is the process efficient?
- Are there alternatives which would add more value?
You certainly don’t want to justify the question ‘Why do we do it this way?’ with the answer ‘Because we always have…’. The software you adopt, and the process you have in place to use it, needs to create true efficiency. If it doesn’t add value, why are you using it?
And this is why thinking about your end goal is so important. If you have a clear view of what success looks like, you’re far more likely to make the right choices for your systems.
We realised early on that that being tied to a desktop accounting package was a burden, one that could be resolved by moving online:
The reason for us embracing the online way of working was really driven by technology. The ‘Facebook generation’ are used to being online all the time. We’re all used to getting things right now, in real time, when we want it. So why on Earth would you want to wait? Why would you want to deal with reams of paper being exchanged in the post, or back-ups being exchanged?”
The instant, mobile access which a cloud accounting system offers turns this desire for real-time information into a reality. And it solves the problem of being tied to a desktop system that only works when at the office – freeing us up to really focus on client relationships.
Evaluate and update your systems
So, you now have your new online systems in place and the rest of the business are using these new tools to work with clients. At this point
you’ll need to start evaluating how well these systems and internal processes are working.
You’ll need to think about how you manage:
- Employee engagement
Trace a process from start to finish –for example. How much time and resource is spent? Is it efficient? How many times do things go backwards and forwards between you and your client? Could this be simplified and updated?
These are good ways to challenge and evaluate the performance of a new way of working. And where there are obvious solutions, you can update your procedures and processes to improve areas like productivity and efficiency.
Another area to consider is contingency planning – you’ll need to have a plan in place if access to your systems is lost, for whatever reason. What support would you get from your internet service provider if there’s a serious outage? How reliable is your hardware and how long would it take to replace or repair? How quickly could you switch to a back-up system?
These are questions which need some watertight answers as part of your evaluation process.
Fix what bothers you
There will be issues you spot as part of the evaluation process. If something bothers you, think back to the outcome you’re aiming for. How can you fix the problem to achieve your intended goal? By looking back at your original goal, you can follow the process back and fix the areas that aren’t performing.
Breaking big problems down into smaller chunks makes them less daunting and more manageable. Split the big challenges down into clear, concise actions and then work on those. This will help progress to be made and will help push you forward. Not only does this bring you closer to fixing your problem, but it also has a big positive impact on employee engagement – a vital component forsuccess, as we’ll see in the next step.
Creating a positive feeling of engagement
Training is crucial, if you’re going to engage your people. Offering full, in depth training sessions on the new systems will help to get staff on board, and will iron out any potential issues and problems at an early stage. Training and communicating updates about changes to your systems will be an ongoing process. Over time, your systems will go through software updates, changes to features and add-ons, and revisions to which applications are part of your overall set-up.
Be smart about technology
Training is crucial, if you’re going to engage your people. Offering full, indepth training sessions on the new systems will help to get staff on board, and will iron out any potential issues and problems at an early stage.
- Does it add value?
- Does it solve a problem?
Smart technology offers so many benefits for a business that makes
the most of its features. But you also need to be smart about which technology you use.
Here’s an example of this smart approach.
A small office of four people doesn’t need an internal social networking platform: a large global company of 2,000 people does. Forcing a small group of people who all sit in the same room to take their ‘water-cooler moment’ online defeats the object of a social tool – they’re already being social. The global business needs that tool to connect a network of people who are spread geographically across the globe.
Think about how the technology will help you work more effectively, both with your customers and with your internal processes.
And here’s a final recap …
As we’ve seen, moving your business to a cloud-based system has many business benefits. For example, the flexibility of cloud accounting can turn value-based services into real drivers of revenue.
But keeping on top of the available technology and really being smart about your software choices is also part of managing the effectiveness of your business.
By following our six-point plan for managing your business online you’ll improve your processes, while increasing your productivity and creating additional value-driven opportunities with your clients.
- Step 1 – Make the right choices Be clear about your objectives. Choose your software carefully. Don’tuse technology for technology’s sake – you need solutions that really add the intended value.
- Step 2 – Think about your processes. Make sure new applications fit into, and add value to, your existing processes. If necessary, change your processes to make them more efficient.
- Step 3 – Evaluate and update your systems. Once they’re in place, how productive and effective are the new applications? Evaluate and measure how well they’re working and whether they are delivering the right outcome. Put together a contingency plan for outages.
- Step 4 – Fix what bothers you. If something bothers you and doesn’t work well, fix it. Think back tothe original outcome and amend the areas that need fixing to achieveyour goals.
- Step 5 – Create a positive feeling of engagement. Train your people to use the new systems. Talk to your staff abouttheir experiences with the systems. Keep them in the loop and preserve that positive engagement.
- Step 6 – Be smart about technology. Be sure that you’re making the right technology choices. Ask whether the applications add the intended value and solve the specific problem you need to fix.