In the course of business, we sometimes get so focused on “getting the job done” that we lose sight of the way we are going about it. As business accelerates, we are often too busy chasing new sales to realize that outdated internal practices are slowing us down. Or, even if we realize that productivity is being hampered, we are too busy chasing new opportunities to stop and fix it. On the flip side, when things finally slow down, most businesses are worried that the slow down might mean lean times ahead and are reluctant to invest in capital improvements. We see this a lot when meeting with new clients who are frustrated by chasing paper and are ready start getting things done faster. Having the intestinal fortitude to routinely update technology, processes and internal controls helps organizations maximize have a competitive edge during times of industry growth, and minimize wasting valuable time. The key is to make it routine. By continually addressing efficiency as part of your long term business plan, you won’t get caught behind the technology curve. Here are a few things to consider when trying to make your business more efficient:
- Outdated technology wastes time. Literally. Standing at a fax machine, waiting for a slow internet connection, fixing the millionth paper jam this month, or listening to a 10 year old computer “think” while working in Excel: these are all productivity killers. Technology gets faster, better, and cheaper every day, so getting back an hour or two of productivity a week from each employee will easily make the ROI of a new computer, improved internet connectivity or new servers a justifiable expense for most organizations. Getting effective technology in place can even help to keep headcount the same as business grows, increasing your profitability. Not to mention that your whole team will be ready the next time your sales person brings in a whale. With the latest solutions in the collaborative commerce marketplace, companies can now do business in the cloud, without the need for expensive new hardware, or a new fax machine – making efficient business even more affordable.
- Manual reconciliation should be a final step in any process, not the first. Are you making phone calls to track shipment? What about manually writing orders for stock products? While it is critical to have an actual set of eyes looking over your documents; this should be a last step, not the first. As your product lines and customer volumes grow, manually verifying that every single document shared with a vendor had all the correct information and was received can add up to days and weeks. Having an automated process for routine business practices can include steps for receipt and verification. And, if you make time to define your parameters; documents that are incorrect or incomplete won’t make it through the system in the first place. No more accidentally ordering and extra 10,000 parts because of a typo. No chasing down a salesman because he didn’t put the shipping address on a rush order. Having clear processes and expectations will ensure the process keeps running smoothly even when things are at their busiest. Now, businesses are able to create a private cloud-based solution where the processes are defined by the system owner making sure that vendors and customers are getting all the right information; the first time.
- Working from paper copies can be dangerous. Especially when working with a global supply chain, so many factors can necessitate a change in a business transaction. From a negotiation for new payment terms to raw material shortages, these changes can have huge consequences. Making sure vendors and customers are looking at the same data you are, and not a previous version of the backorder, invoice or waybill, will minimize the potential for costly and frustrating errors. Not to mention the expense of all that paper, printing and document storage. With advances in cloud technology and collaborative commerce solutions, now everyone in your supply chain can work with the same set of documents, and without having to send a bunch of verification emails to make sure changes go through.
Business will continue to move faster and the world will continue to get more connected. Make sure that your company is ahead of the pack by harnessing the latest technology, rather than watching the competition pull ahead while you’re sifting through stacks of paper. About the author: Fasih Hussain is the COO of Appterra Collaborative Commerce, a firm that specializes in cloud based collaborative commerce solutions. Fasih has spent decades in global business development and marketing: helping start-ups deploy technology solutions that can make an impact. He and the Appterra team service a global customer base enabling trading partners to seamlessly share data through privately controlled, secure, cloud-based platforms.