How Can IT Help You Take Your Business to New Levels?
When was the last time you sat down with an IT professional and talked to them about how you could grow your business?
If IT’s way down on the list of places you’d look for growth, you’re not alone. In fact, many businesses see IT as the way to implement changes that are decided on by sales and services professionals – rather than the catalyst for growth in its own right.
So, what happens when you turn to an IT professional and talk about driving your business forward? We’ll explore the kind of applications and infrastructure solutions they might talk about, and tell you a bit about how they could help you take your business to new levels.
How would you feel about squeezing an extra hour of work out of all your employees at no additional cost and no additional expectation on them?
Pretty good right?
Well, that’s what you can expect when you use cloud-based collaboration tools effectively. While people tend to think that we work better when we’re passing paperwork to one another and talking as we stand around the copier, it’s actually not the case.
When we switch to cloud-based tools (think Office 365, G-Suite, Slack, etc) we actually adopt new and more efficient ways of working – and that speeds things up for your employees. On average, you can expect a 10% increase in workload output when you equip people with the right tools.
If 10% doesn’t sound like much, it’s worth doing the maths. With a team of 10 employees working full-time hours, you’ll effectively unlock a one person’s worth of output each week – so your 10-person team becomes a team of 11. Add these numbers up over the year and it’s hard to find a reason not to look at online collaboration as a matter of urgency.
While we’re talking about working efficiently, it’s worth looking at how an application can help our interactions with customers.
Now, we’re not suggesting that your customer service becomes automated – but there is room for Artificial Intelligence type support with the bits humans don’t tend to be very good at – i.e. the organisational side of the process.
Even the best spreadsheet-style approach to managing a customer base relies on one of your employees working with it effectively – remembering to keep regular notes, update it with every contact, input every email that’s sent, order that’s made, and so forth. Managing a customer spreadsheet becomes a difficult challenge – before you’ve even picked up the phone.
With a smart CRM (customer relationship management) system, you remove the need for managing any of this process – and instead, you allow people to focus on the bits of customer support they’re best at. A good CRM will let you input your customer workflows so the system becomes personalised to your company. From there, you can track where every customer is in your process – from being a cold prospect to being a completed sale – or support call.
The benefits are huge. A 2017 study showed that companies can expect conversion rates to increase by anywhere between 80% and 300% – and customer satisfaction is likely to go up by between 60% and 75% too – depending on your industry.
If you want to make your employee’s professional lives much easier – while bolstering your customer experience – a CRM is a very smart step to make.
Use ‘as a Service’ provisions
Software as a Service (SaaS) has completely changed the way many businesses work.
If you were involved in IT a generation ago, you’ll remember the joy of working with product activation keys – passwords that were needed to unlock application functionality when it was installed on a machine. After unlocking your applications – they were then tied to that PC until it was time to upgrade – a monumental task that involved switching the company’s full workforce over to new (and sometimes less reliable) ways to working with the computers.
Now, Software as a Service does away with this – because you simply pay for access to software that is stored on a powerful server somewhere else on the planet. No activation keys or big outlays – just a monthly cost for the products you need.
While you’re likely to be using this kind of provision for at least some of your software already – applications aren’t the only place this model works. IaaS stands for Infrastructure as a Service – the idea that you can access otherwise cost-prohibitive network resources virtually – rather than having them shipped to your office. In business terms, this can often mean access to equipment and functionality that can lift your company head and shoulders above the competition.
SD-WAN stands for Software-Defined Wide Area Networking – a revolutionary approach to network management that’s unlocking a world of function and convenience for businesses around the world.
In the simplest terms, an SD-WAN system is a software ‘overlay’ that works with your current network. Amongst other things, it allows your devices to be controlled remotely – even down to settings that would ordinarily need someone on the site to be flicking switches and changing the ports that cables are plugged into.
This is enormously powerful for companies who want to outsource or centralise their IT support – as it allows ‘hands-on’ access to every device on your network without the need for engineers sitting in cars – or even getting on planes.
As well as making network maintenance far easier, an SD-WAN system allows you to handle Class of Service settings remotely too. While SD-WAN doesn’t quite compete with MPLS in this regard, it does tie in nicely with the previous point we’ve made in this guide – working with SaaS applications.
Whether you choose to set up your system yourself – or outsource it to an external team, and SD-WAN management portal gives you the ability to look at what each of your locations or users is accessing and the performance they’re getting. This way, you can make performance adjustments based on what the business needs – reducing the chance of issues the impact the most mission-critical parts of the business.