Times are as tough as they have ever been for small and medium businesses. Profit margins are constantly squeezed by the big competitors’ economies of scale, and the search for cost savings is unrelenting. But smaller firms have a tremendous advantage in being able to adapt quickly, and technology is coming to their aid with new software and hardware that is transforming every workplace.
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Business productivity software is affordable and provides a very handy tool for real-time analysis of how your business is performing. It enables you, over whatever period you choose, to see what you are achieving and to compare it with your goals. You can feed in information on market trends and how well you are retaining customers. You can see where things are being held up, so that you can make adjustments to where you focus your attention.
As well as giving an overview, your software will help to identify the key areas where you need to invest more time, energy, and money.
There are two ways in which technology interacts with your employees: the processes that help them to work better, and the processes that enable you to see how they are working.
Communication technology can help your employees to work more effectively, building up virtual as well as real teams. Team work is recognized as the key to effective operation, and by using the possibilities of new processes you can help to build up not only small teams in discrete areas, but also a greater sense of being part of the wider vision of the whole business—a team of teams.
Processes that observe the workforce have a bad reputation due to the abuses that some firms have indulged in, intrusively controlling every aspect of their employees’ working time. But used well they can be of great assistance to the whole enterprise. By recognizing which departments are struggling you can meet with them and discuss their needs for more resources or more training. By seeing which areas appear to have unproductive time you can highlight opportunities for redeployment and new challenges.
As well as the software that enables your employees to build up their identity as members of your firm, there is also the hardware that enables them to do their work better.
On the factory floor, new processes are being introduced all the time, and new machines maximize output and minimize waste. A typical example would be in powder coating, used in many industrial productions. The sort of specialized custom made machinery that you can see on www.ReliantFinishingSystems.com are designed according to the specific needs of the factory where they are installed, and come with training and support for the operators. This helps to motivate the workforce and stimulate productivity.
Smart machines can anticipate maintenance needs more quickly than operators, ensure that consumables will be available at the right time and in the right quantity, and program operations to optimize energy use and time. With the correct training, they are soon accepted as allies not enemies.
The other people on whom your business depends are your customers. With the right customer relationship management software you can easily keep track of your customers, identify their patterns, and anticipate their needs. You can have easy access to any feedback and can show how you have responded to it.
If you are introducing a new product, you can identify which customers are most likely to be interested, and clarify your marketing strategy, for instance whether to keep your marketing drive in-house or to contract it out.
Last but not least, new technology keeps track of your finances. It is not just a matter of producing the annual accounts. Cash flow is vital to a small business, and the correct software will flag up problems in time to deal with them. Over time it will efficiently give you an overview of your financial patterns to help you plan ahead, as well as giving at any moment a snapshot of how your business stands.
Old Ways, New Ways:
The days when new technology was seen as the enemy of co-operative working practices, replacing teams of people motivated to a common cause with impersonal processes and machines, are drawing to a close. New technology, in the right managerial hands, can and should be a means to give people greater commitment to their company, greater awareness of the objectives, and greater satisfaction in the results.
Ryan Norton has experience running a manufacturing business. He writes for a range of business blogs sharing his tips on day-to-day operations, staff training, keeping abreast of new technology and more.