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The opinions of entrepreneurs' contributors are their own.
Understanding the technology you use (or don't use) in the office is vital for any business owner. Some tend to keep track of the latest high tech offerings available in order to keep up with the competition. Others are reluctant to give up the technology they have been using for years.
In fact, many companies can save money without hurting their growth potential by changing the way they use technology – especially when it comes to identifying outdated or inefficient tech solutions that should be discarded. A few smart changes will help you cut costs and even improve efficiency so that you are ready for greater growth in the future.
1. Make better use of your smartphone
“There's an app for everything” may have become a cliché, but for small business owners, it's a cliché that is worth exploring a little more closely. Why have a scanner or fax machine handy when you can use your smartphone to scan documents? Instead of sending an invoice to your customer after a service is provided, you can use the checkout software to accept payments directly on your phone.
Business smartphone apps cover almost all software niches, from accounting and project management to sales and marketing. By integrating your smartphone into your business operations, you become completely mobile and can do your work from anywhere. This also helps you get rid of outdated equipment and software that are less efficient.
2. Consider hot-desking or teleworking
The pandemic accelerated the rise in remote working like never before, opening the eyes of many business owners to the potential cost savings of not renting huge office space. At the same time, many believed that having a fully remote workforce also had inherent drawbacks, such as a lack of connection between team members, which could shake corporate culture and innovation.
However, office versus home work does not have to be an either-or solution. Many companies use “hot desking” to allow flexibility while encouraging their teams to come to the office. Employees can come and go at the times most convenient for them. Instead of separating departments, they can occupy any available desk.
While this requires ensuring that every desk has the appropriate equipment for each team member, it can allow you to reduce the amount of office space you need while supporting the increased demand for flexibility between home and work.
Related: 6 Tips to Make Remote Working Really Work
3. Accept calls via VoIP
Having a dedicated phone number that customers can call you is essential for any business. Today, however, paying an additional fee for a landline is an expense your business can forego. The alternative: Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP.
Dean Genge, CEO of managed IT services company Ascent Data, said in an email: “VoIP enables companies to make and receive calls over their Internet connection rather than relying on a landline network. Many of these systems are entirely cloud-based, which means there is no need to install hardware – instead, businesses can leverage the internet equipment they already have on-site to save money while maintaining their ability to serve their customers to enhance."
Cloud-based VoIP can even sync with cell phones so you can take calls when you are out of the office. Some estimates suggest that this can cut monthly communication costs by up to 50%.
4. Automate, automate, automate
While paying for automation tools may seem like it will increase your business spend, the value of increasing efficiency cannot be underestimated. Research from McKinsey concludes that “half of the activities people are paid for worldwide could theoretically be automated using currently demonstrated technologies. (…) by 2030, depending on the speed of introduction, between almost zero and 30% of the hours worked worldwide could be automated. "
While there is some concern that such advances will crowd out workers, savvy business owners know that automation actually allows their employees to spend more time on higher-level tasks that increase productivity and profitability. For example, automation tools that aid in data collection and processing provide business owners with accurate data for faster, more effective decision-making.
5. Make IT and cybersecurity a top priority
Our ever increasing reliance on technology also carries a fair amount of risk. A quarter of small business owners say they spent more than $ 10,000 fixing a single successful attack, and a similar number said they lost business following a cyber attack. Additionally, 45% of small and medium-sized businesses have five to 16 hours of downtime due to a data breach – and 12% have up to 48 hours of experience.
Whether it's a phishing scam, a stolen employee password or a successful ransomware attack – no business owner can afford to go without IT and cybersecurity management to protect their technology. Small businesses are often a top target because they have less robust security than large enterprise-level companies. Ignore cybersecurity at your own risk.
Related: 11 Ways to Automate Your Business and Increase Efficiency
The way your company uses technology will have a huge impact on its future. By using technical tools, reducing costs and helping you work more efficiently, you can deliver better results to your customers. When used correctly, technology can help you work smarter while reducing your overall workload – something every business owner will appreciate.