A productive business is a profitable business. A simple, but very true statement. But, according to a Close Brothers report (PDF), the UK lags behind the rest of the G7 countries by 16%.
So what is holding back productivity, and what can British businesses do to become more productive?
The report looks why UK productivity levels are low, and what can be done about it particularly within SMEs. There is one solution that stands out more than any others: technology.
Of the 1,400 SME companies surveyed, across the UK, France and Germany, 49% said new technology will help improve staff efficiency, with 46% saying it will increase overall productivity. It also highlighted cyber security as a real issue that will negatively impact productivity and efficiency.
Let’s look at some of the technology options available to you, particularly around telecoms…
Travel is a huge consumer of time for many businesses. Traveling to meetings with clients, prospects and suppliers can consume big chunks of your working week.
Although video-conferencing has been around for years, it still isn’t used as much as it could be. There are plenty of products available, from the free products such as Google Hangout and Skype to the combined functionality within unified communication tools from Avaya, Cisco and most other telecoms hardware manufacturers.
Not “strictly” a new technology, but they do allow you (assuming you’re not travelling into a major city during rush hour) to work and so improve productivity.
Most trains come with free WiFi, but that isn’t always that great and there can be security concerns. Tethering to your phone and making use of the high data allowances on most mobile contracts is a much better option. Just remember to pick up your phone when you get off the train!
Traveling to get the new client’s signature on a contract still holds a little panache. Most people have seen or read about the classic “sell me this pen” interview question, with a main reason being a nice pen is needed to sign contracts. Today, it really isn’t needed.
Products such as Hellosign allow your clients to sign your contract without you needing to put a paper copy in front of them. It works with Gsuite, OneDrive, Dropbox, Salesforce and many others.
Keeping things simple is a great way of increasing productivity, but its sometimes easier said that done. Even simple things like making phone calls, when out of the office, can be made complicated.
1. Two Phones
Maintaining security and billing accuracy often means companies insist their staff carry a corporate phone as well as their own. This can lead to two lots of cables, remembering which one to use and, of course, bulky pockets.
Teleware Re:Call means this is no longer than issue. It adds another number to the phone, separates all data and does away with all of the physical hassle.
2. To Do Lists
To Do Lists are wonderful things, until you lose the sheet they’re written on. Apps such as ToDoist mean you can keep your list with you wherever you go. Simply add your tasks, including deadlines and timings, and it will keep you on track.
It integrates with Slack, with many calendars, and even Alexa. You can also add up to five of your colleagues for free.
Another option is Cloze. Cloze is an amalgamator, in that it pulls together all your interactions, so you never forget where you’ve got to with someone. Need to remember the last email you sent to someone, when their birthday is or what their last comment was on Twitter. This is what Cloze does.
Brainstorming sessions are a great way to put your heads together and work out how to do something, be it how to improve productivity or what your marketing plans are for the second half of the year. But someone has to write it all up and remember what was said.
Their ability to contribute is hampered somewhat. That’s where Camscanner comes in. Whether it is PDFing a document that you’ve just signed or recording the notes from a brainstorm, you simply take a photo and camscanner asks whether you want a JPEG or PDF.
You can then use all your normal channels to share it, including email, Evernote, Whatsapp and even send it directly to your OneDrive or Google Drive.
In the Close Brothers report, it said that up to 1 in 4 UK companies aren’t even tracking productivity levels, so how can they improve them. A “simple” calculation of revenue generated over hours worked will give you a good indication of productivity levels, but only if you know how many hours are being worked within the business.
Toggl is a good example of a timesheet app for just you or for your team. It integrates with many of the online project management tools out there, such as Basecamp, Asana and Trello. Once you know how many hours are being worked, you can start on how to improve productivity.
Having the world at our fingertips, via the internet, gives us the opportunity to wander off (online) to wonderful places. But it doesn’t help productivity.
RescueTime is one way to limit the amount of “wandering off” you do. By highlighting which sites and apps are eating up your time, you can make the decision to stop visiting them. The paid version ($72 per year), will even block those sites to help you avoid temptation.
3. Data collaboration
Businesses hold data in multiple locations, some in the Cloud and some locally. To deliver for your clients you often need to amalgamate that data into one location to make best use of it.
That’s is where tools such as Zapier and Microsoft Flow really help. Automating a task means it happens whenever needed and happens correctly. Human nature means that repetitive tasks often end up with errors, so why not take the human out of this bit and use them more productively?
Referring back to the Close Brothers article again, cyber security was identified as something that can have a major impact on productivity. Hacked networks mean your business simply stops and data breaches pile a lot of work onto the team. Thankfully there are apps to help you protect your network and your precious data.
1. Stolen Devices
Lost or stolen devices are a major security risk to your business. However they don’t have to be. Endpoint protection products from ESET, for example, mean you can automatically wipe data from devices that cannot be recovered before the data on them may be compromised.
2. Staff Leaving
Something that isn’t often thought about, but when staff leave, particularly if you operate a BYOD policy for mobiles, there is a lot of valuable corporate data on that phone that you don’t want anyone else to get hold of. Microsoft InTune allows you to separate and, if necessary, remotely wipe that data.
The four areas of business activity we’ve covered can be real drains on productivity. Hopefully the applications we have covered will be helpful in improving your business’ productivity.
About the author
This guide has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Gary Young, Director of independent telecoms brokerage Equinox. Gary works with companies, charities and other organisations to help them choose the right telecoms packages for their needs and thereby reduce their costs. He is particularly knowledgeable on the integration of IT and telecoms in business.
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