Ulrika Hedlund, CEO, Business Productivity, (www.businessproductivity.com)
It has often been fashionable for productivity and time management specialists to measure the effect of new technologies in terms of time saved. There’s nothing wrong with that, especially when you look at, say, a piece of software: a new function can shave minutes off repetitive tasks for each employee, and when that is applied to a large enterprise, it can add up to thousands of hours saved each year.
However, for small businesses, the real value of products like Office 365 is in generating a step-change in competitiveness. For a consumer-grade price (a few pounds per month), small businesses now have access to the same type of IT infrastructure as large corporations– the sort of enterprise-grade productivity tools which were simply not available to them before. I can vouch for this myself. In my days in large companies, I had access to the best tools in the world on my desktop; now that I run my own business, I still have those same tools at my fingertips.
The difference is, as a small business it is imperative to leverage these technologies in order to remain competitive. With a globalised talent base, any company can find expertise and resources anywhere in the world; but to bring people together, protect the company’s intellectual property, and deliver a service repeatably and profitably, you need technology to help you.
Those tools also come with no need to invest in technology, which again levels the playing field with larger competitors. Office 365 comes off the shelf: you don’t need new servers or to hire people with technical competencies. Cloud services are simply pay-as-you-go; when you take on a new member of staff, it takes just a few moments to set them up on a dashboard, and they are good to go. Scaling back is just as easy.
When you think in terms of competitiveness, it also becomes easy to work out which aspects of a powerful piece of software like Office 365 to implement first. I always advise small businesses to get the basics in place, before unlocking the greater value-add elements in the platform. For example, in most small companies, each member of staff has their own contacts list. If their computer crashes, it can be disastrous; and if they go on holiday, nobody else in the office can really progress their business. Something as easy as having all customer contact details available to everyone, on any device, stored centrally and safely in the Cloud, is massively empowering, easy to achieve, and – above all – the sort of thing that big corporate competitors simply take for granted.
In any business, the greatest investment is your people. You owe it to them to make sure they have the best possible tools. With the help of technology, I can save time; but I can also produce higher quality work, and that’s what will differentiate my business. Sure, we can tot up time saved; but delivering a better product with the time bought back: that’s true competitiveness.