The idea of running the office today with the equipment of 30 years ago is laughable. Having a single phone system that did nothing but take phone calls and stand-alone copy machine and fax. Many offices simply used word processer typewriters. The internet was barely in its infancy and was simply email and chats programs at that time and broadband was unheard of. With all the modern conveniences of integrated computer systems and automated software programs, why is the cost of running a business so much higher even given inflation adjustments then 30 years ago?
Underutilization of Automation Capabilities
The biggest reason for the lack of effective increase in productivity in administrative tasks in a business even after substantial upgrades to computers is that the capabilities are not fully used. Paying $1500 for each computer workstation and another $1000 for a server with the end result of having the same service as a small $150 word processor with a floppy disk of 25 years ago is obviously not cost effective. The same goes for computerized phone systems that often end with no more value than an analog hold button and several lines of service. While both of these systems have the capability to do much more, in practice at most small and medium size businesses they do not.
If the only purpose your business is using the internet for is to get online orders and emails, high speed broadband internet is nothing more than an expensive perk for employees to use to surf while they should be working. It is an unfortunately common reality that after internet and computer upgrades there is often a net decrease in productivity rather than the savings expected from such a large investment. It must be a focus of all upgrades that making the workers job easier is only of value if it increases productivity. If there is no more work output from the same number of employees, no increase in retention of employees, and no reduction of staff with the corresponding cost reductions, your efforts have completely missed the mark.
Making Technology Pay
There are many ways to truly experience increases in productivity and decreases in cost by using the technology available. Whether you currently are fully equipped and simply under-utilizing the capabilities or considering improvements some ideas that will pay huge dividends are easily available if they are approached with a specific goal. The key to achieving the cost savings anticipated is to train and enforce the use of the products to maximize potential. Very often the savings are lost simply because after improvements employees continue to do business in the same way as previously.
- High Speed Internet – By adding fiber optic internet cables and a very high speed ISP plan, you can actually realize huge savings in costs and increases in worker productivity. The reason to do this however has nothing to do with the extra 1 second it takes for a webpage to load. If you use this service to conduct face to face video meetings with clients you save on travel expenses and travel time. You can also consider allowing telecommuting as both an employee perk and to reduce size of office space needed.
- Industry Software – There are hundreds of very high end high efficiency software programs tailored to virtually every industry. Most of these include further customization to match your business needs. They also very often come with substantial licensing fees. Never purchase a software based automation program without it including or negotiating full training for all staff that will utilize it for a minimum period of time. The salesperson doing the demonstration on a very limited basis can make it very attractive, but if your employees can not use it just as efficiently it will not render the desired results. Attempt to negotiate an out clause to specific targets of increased work output or decreased man hours for a guarantee.
- Optimize Computer Usage- Do not have computers at every workstation for the sole purpose of interoffice emails. You can buy a lot of post-it notes for the cost of a computer work station and IT person to administer it. Ensure your IT manager trains, or hire a trainer show how to use server based or cloud based collaboration of workers. By having all centrally stored, including employee agendas and projects, a manager can monitor and direct efforts efficiently and quickly determine when and where additional focus is needed. If you have either a server or internet and still find yourself going desk to desk for updates you are not utilizing your computer resources properly.