In the current difficult financial climate it is vital to use all the tools at your disposal to help your business to weather the storm. It is worth checking if your current computers and IT systems are working as hard as they could. Sometimes it seems that our computer systems are running us, not the other way round.
Correctly used, well-designed software will save time and money, by relieving you of routine administrative tasks, leaving time to concentrate on the important things, like developing new products, or winning new business. Your customer service will improve as you will have all the necessary information readily available whenever customers call you and a computerized system can also help prevent mistakes.
It is likely that the software already installed on your computers could be doing much more than it is – it is estimated that most people use only a fraction of the capabilities of Microsoft Office, for example.
A one-off investment in technology can save ongoing staff costs. Philippa Turnbull of Dorset-based software developers, Software Matters, says, “We have worked with several companies who were thinking of taking on extra staff to cope with their admin. We developed systems to streamline and automate their working, and enabled them to manage with their current workforce.”
Your IT should be saving you time, not taking up your time. If you answer no to any of the following questions then your computers and IT could be working harder for you.
1. Correspondence – if you send the same or similar letters to different people again and again, is this process simple and straightforward? Can you just choose a contact and the letter you want to send, and have the letter produced at the click of a button? Better still, does your computer tell you when it needs to be sent out too?
2. Company Finances – Are your key financial indicators available to you as and when you need them, at the click of a button?
3. Project Milestones – Are you automatically reminded when jobs are due? Does your IT understand the processes involved in your projects, and remind you when project milestones are due, activities need to be billed, new processes need to be started, or letters need to be followed up?
4. Invoicing and other documents – Are your invoices simple to produce because your IT system already holds all the necessary information, such as delivery notes and job cards? Does it produce statutory documentation, e.g. waste notes?
5. Contact Information – Does your IT system manage your contact information, not just hold it, reminding you when it is time to ring someone again, or follow-up the letter you sent them two weeks ago? Is this information integrated with your day-to-day operation, rather than being held in two systems?
If you feel your systems are not achieving all this, then there is almost certainly scope for improvement. You may be able to tackle the job yourself – Microsoft Office tools like Excel and Access have extensive “Help” facilities, and the internet provides a vast range of information and help.
In larger companies your in-house IT department will understand the particular requirements of your business and may be able to provide what you need. An external software developer is a good answer for more complicated projects when there is no in-house expertise. It is essential to find the right company, and a personal recommendation is always useful, so ask friends and business colleagues if they have used anyone or know somebody suitable. Alternatively, Business Link or business clubs are a good place to look, and can put you in touch with people in your area. A good software developer will take time to understand what you want and will give you a clear idea of the costs involved.
No doubt you and your staff are working extra hard at the moment. Make sure that your computers are playing their part too.