Without a doubt, one persistent question on the minds of countless business managers this year has been: How can we do more with less? Many of us are experiencing less money in our budgets as a result of fewer customers, which has resulted in less workers on our payroll, and for many, less hope that tomorrow will be brighter than today.
This is especially true in Michigan. Unemployment in our state has rocketed from 8.3 percent in July of 2008 to a devastating peak of over 14 percent in July of 2009. As of summer 2011, we’re still one of the worst-off states in the Union, at 10.2 percent.
But perhaps there is a silver lining to be found in this gloomy cloud of bad economic news. Faced with troubling circumstances, business leaders are driven to innovate and are forced to develop new ways of doing business, or at least to streamline some significant process. Throughout recent history, we have seen technology play a key role in the innovation that takes place as a result of this shift in thinking, and I expect this trend to continue.
During the past 30 years, the auto industry embraced technology in its design labs and employed sophisticated robots in its factories. The result is that automakers now build much more reliable cars, faster and more cheaply. (Hence, more with less.) We have also witnessed the tremendous increase in the ability of the United States Armed Forces to deliver persuasive military force with far fewer soldiers on the ground, which is a direct result of the deployment of technologically advanced weapon systems. Over the past three decades, we have seen computers, software, e-mail and the Internet dramatically change the way modern business is conducted.
I recently spoke with a friend who mentioned that since we have witnessed so many advancements in technology during the past ten years, there is no way the next ten years can keep the same pace. I argued the opposite conclusion. Because of the strong foundation that has been laid, I believe we will likely see a radical quickening in the pace of innovation, with an emphasis on the development of new technologies.
We will see both evolutionary and revolutionary changes in the way we manage our health, receive our news and entertainment, shop, communicate with each other and perform our work. It is at times like these, where our economy is in distress, that we see business innovation at its best. I look for tremendously positive progress in coming years and am very excited about the opportunities that will be created as a consequence.
My hope is that others share my enthusiasm and are inspired to participate in this movement towards leaner and more efficient organizations. The easiest way to identify any aspect of a business that may be inefficient is to simply ask your staff what is causing them frustration. Is it recurring communication breakdowns? Not enough time to complete a task? Information overload? Not enough information? Complicated procedures that never seem to work properly? Old, slow equipment that they would love to toss out the window?
Getting this information will likely be easy. Finding a better way and then changing from “the way things have always been done,” will require considerable effort. Even so, it’s important to embed this way of thinking deep within your organization’s culture so that everyone will be on the lookout every day for a better way to do the things they do.
The outcomes that the proper deployment of technology can provide are improved communication, streamlined processes, reduced paper flow, and a reduction of clearly quantifiable direct or indirect costs. Here are a few ways that many Providence clients are wisely using information technology today to do more with less.
- Reduce printing, paper and mailing costs by connecting with prospects and customers using professional-looking e-mail newsletters, high-impact e-mail promotions, e-mail event invitations and online surveys.
- Eliminate duplicated efforts and keep mobile workers productive by providing them with secure access to information and a way to process it while away from their primary workspace.
- Reduce information worker frustration and ensure productivity by implementing a proactive IT service and maintenance plan. A well-structured plan will help you find potential problems before they surface and correct them before they lead to worker downtime.
- Reduce travel expenses by providing your mobile workforce with video conferencing equipment and software so that they can participate in group meetings and discussions from their home offices.
- Increase the efficiency in connecting with staff members, customers, or prospects with web-based training, seminars, and sales meetings.
- Reduce support, electricity, cooling and maintenance costs by consolidating server hardware with the help of advanced new virtualization technologies.
- Eliminate up-front costs and reduce ongoing maintenance expenses by using Cloud-based or hosted services for specific software applications, such as customer relationship management or e-mail software.
Many business owners have already adopted these or other changes in your business and I applaud you. If you have a great idea or would like to share how you are doing more with less, we would love to hear from you. Please comment on this blog post on our Facebook page and share your ideas with our community!
Jeff Dettloff is President and Chief Problem Solver at Providence, a Lansing IT Consulting firm.