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Business Advice

Five productivity tips for your business

Streamline the flow of information and delight your customers.
The Straits Times - September 12, 2012
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Five productivity tips for your business

 

Small business owners often struggle to be competitive in a volatile economic environment. While computerisation can improve productivity by streamlining work processes, there is more you can do to stay ahead of the pack. Here are five ways.

1 Manage your information

If you are still filing heaps of documents in metal cabinets, it is time to reconsider how information is managed in your business. Computerisation is only the first step in any information management strategy. It also means helping workers access the information they need in their jobs quickly and securely.

Developing a disaster recovery plan to back up and restore data is also a must to ensure your business is not derailed should a power failure or security breach occur.

2 Improve customer communications

How are you keeping track of customer preferences? If you rely on a particular service staff member to remember a client's favourite option, that information could be lost when the employee resigns.

There is a slew of cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software from vendors like Salesforce.com and Microsoft that small and medium-sized enterprises can use to record customer preferences and other information.

Some will even help you identify prospective customers and run targeted marketing campaigns.

3 Streamline collaboration

Sending documents through e-mail systems for co-workers to work on together is not the most efficient way to collaborate. It is clumsy and slow - with files being sent back and forth - and will bust your e-mail storage limit quickly.

Instead, consider a cloud-based office application such as Google Docs or Microsoft's Office 365 that allows co-workers to edit documents concurrently.

The latter also includes a white-board feature, where employees can use a virtual canvas to sketch out ideas in real time.

4 Remote access for some staff

Not everyone needs to be in the office for real work to be done. Certain employees, such as sales and field support teams, may be out for most of the day and need access to data and e-mail while on the move.

Requiring workers to return to the office to retrieve customer records or check their e-mail is counter-productive and may even slow down customer response time.

A good starting point would be to give mobile workers remote access to their e-mail on corporate devices, or better still, on their own personal devices.

5 Gain control of your inbox

Mastering your e-mail software will go a long way in managing the e-mail deluge.

For instance, in Microsoft Outlook, you can organise messages into categories to track related items that are stored in different folders. In Gmail, you can also create labels to differentiate one message from another.

Exercising some e-mail discipline helps too. Act on a message as soon as you see it, or drop it into a to-do folder if you need more time.

Aaron Tan is an infocomm professional

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