Operation efficiency is one of the key goals an owner should be working on to be competitive in today’s business climate. Customers expect instant access to information, quick service, and superior delivery. If you have not mastered operation efficiency, you most likely are not meeting your customer’s expectations and risk losing market share to your competition. I believe IT plays a huge role in achieving operational efficiency.
Operation efficiency isn’t just about reducing costs; to the contrary, it’s about leveraging all of the assets available to you as an owner. Companies who focus on solely cutting costs to improve operation efficiency usually end up under performing their competition. They become too focused with cost reduction and lose sight of adding real business value to the customer, which in return improves customer satisfaction, recurring revenue, increased market share and dramatic business growth.
The following are 5 IT and organizational best practices to help your business increase operation efficiency and deliver more value to your customers and business:
- Collaborate more: Work on making it easier to collaborate between employees, suppliers, and customers. Improving collaboration is a sure-fire way to boost your efficiency while also reducing costs. Using IT to integrate Voice over IP, IP video, Instant Messaging, and data and wireless provides the kind of interactive calendaring, videoconferencing, IP communications and other technologies your business needs to provide instant and easy communication with all parties. No matter if you are in or out of the office. Look for an integrated tool for unifying all of these communications methods within a single desktop application. I have described the idea of a unified desktop application here.
- Provide customers and vendors with secure, consistent access to information: Easy access to your IT information may be the difference between holding onto a long time client and losing them to a competitor. Do you have a secure web portal for your clients to track orders, and invoices? Do you have a portal for your vendors and clients so they can self-serve? If your company network is frequently down, sluggish, or unsecured, your competitive advantage may be lost. Your employees also need an easy virtual-private-network access to your IT network. To achieve a high level of access to IT information, your employees must be able to have access to your environment at anytime from anywhere. An easy to use, reliable and secure infrastructure provides your business with maximum agility by providing reliable, secure access to business IT intelligence.
- Streamline client communication: Communicating with clients helps keep them satisfied and can help turn them into raving fans. Few things are more important to your bottom line as satisfied clients. Integrating your phone system to your customer relationship management (CRM) application is one way to improve client communications. This integration is an easy IT solution to implement; when a client calls, a pop-up window of the customer contact appears on your employee's computer screen. Before the second ring, your employee answering the call has access to information about the client calling, such as current orders, recent returns and much more. There is no more need to ask your client what their account number is. The data is already on your employee’s screen before they answer the call.
- Create efficient and effective processes with your vendors: Vendors are critical to all growing businesses. Successful partnerships are created when you are able to integrate your company with the vendor. To do this, you will need to create efficient and effective processes that bring you and the partner into a seamless distribution channel. Operationally bringing your vendors into your IT systems via a secure virtual-private-network tunnel is a fast and inexpensive means of allowing your vendors and your company to share critical information in real time.
- Outsource low priority functions: Is it the best use of an employee's time to manage your network, security, communication systems or other non-core functions of your business? Often, a more efficient option is to outsource such tasks to an IT managed service provider (MSP). A service provider has the expertise that your business may lack, but desperately require. An MSP can provide you with instant expertise without the need to spend time or money developing that IT expertise in house. Outsourcing enables your employees to stay focused on productive activities related to your business's core functions and competencies.
IT operation efficiency is the cornerstone to all successful growing companies and is not a onetime project. Continuous review and improvement of your IT operation will help you and your company outperform your competitors and dominate your industry.