Using Technology to Increase Business Productivity

You’ll see a lot of articles with this title around and about.  But there’s one thing that a large proportion of them completely miss. The single most important asset to your business productivity.

Your people.

These articles will tell you that a CRM software solution will transform your communication. They will also tell you that virtual teams/working brings people closer together. That online performance evaluations can streamline staff development, motivate and review performance.

What few of them tell you is how to properly manage the change.

You see we humans are fickle animals – we struggle to accept change in general. And the fight or flight response can trigger a negative reaction if we’re not completely onboard.

This is something that technology firms roundly overlook. And it’s hard to hold that against them really.  They do their specialist role – a lot of the work is very complex but has little relation to how the office receptionist will feel, or the guys in the drawing office and so on.

Any technology project that requires “users” to operate the final product will be worse off for not involving them.

Why?

Any time a technology “improvement” is delivered to people who were not expecting it it’s easy to see their unhappy.  That unhappiness generally stems from the lack of involvement in the process.

We can’t very well expect every single member of staff to be involved in every single technology purchasing decision. But the ones that result in a large proportion needing that technology for a business improvement project?

Ignore them at your peril.

Any technology project I’ve worked on previously has been greatly enhanced by involving staff at an early stage.  Even if you have a top notch supplier providing the solution they can get on better by being more accepted, even if it’s just getting a cuppa whilst on site.

But more than that, it’s your staff that are there before, during and after the project. And it’s your staff who will live with the output of that project.  Anything you can do to improve the experience for them will make all the difference.

We often see phones systems using about 10% of their functionality because staff don’t know how to use them.  People angry with computers and peripherals because they’ve just been given them or, worse, turned up to find new stuff on their desk.

By thinking a little bit about how to involve them and make them feel like part of the process it helps to break down the walls of acceptance.

The best bit is you don’t even have to do it!  Just make sure your solutions provider includes it as part of their work.

 

We ALWAYS consider a clients staff in all project work and strongly recommend their involvement even on a very simple basis as this is the perfect way to accentuate the success of any technology productivity project.

Mission Critical – Keeping Going

In previous blog posts we talked of identifying and preparing for failures and now we’re staring one in the face – your internet connection is down and chaos is about to ensue….what next?

Remember we recorded items that would cause a serious problem in the event of failure? Each one needs to be looked at separately to come up with a failure fix and, if possible, a work around.

Depending on how in-depth you really want to get depends greatly on how much panic and confusion will reign if failures occur – I prefer to be calm, collected, covered and above all, Cornish!

So I’ve looked at my router manual, I know what all of the lights mean, I can look at my router during an internet failure and deduce if it’s a hardware fault or elsewhere.

This time it all looks ok – we can even browse to its web interface, log in and see it’s operational.

So, as previously mentioned, we have to look back “up the line” the router is ok, what about the phone line? I have a phone plugged into it too which I can pick up, dial 123 and find out what time it is – all seems well.

Now I refer to my (specifically created for my business) documentation and find out the contact details of my Internet Service Provider before giving them a call.

I am greeted with a recorded message “We are experiencing high volumes of calls due to the current outage – please call back later” and the line goes dead.

And it’s at this point you’ll realise, if not before, why I said that if your internet connection drops out the recovery really is in the lap of the gods. The majority of ISP’s don’t supply their own connections rather resell others, so they have to report the outage themselves and wait.

Next step is to refer to your workaround.

Having a small business means you are a bit more agile by default, if you’re a one-person concern it’s often just a matter of picking up your portable device and heading off to the nearest Pub/Coffee shop/Café/Restaurant/Other place with free wifi and carrying on as before.

You might be lucky and own a mobile phone that allows tethering, a neat way of sharing the data on the phone with other devices, or maybe you have a mobile broadband dongle you can either use on your router or computer.

Whatever the work-around it’s time to apply it. And here’s the benefit of being small and agile, you can usually ride these outages out without too much stress, imagine if you had a dozen members of staff all sat in an office especially those with on-site services & servers that need internet.

Just this week I visited a company who had an outage that affected just two PCs – staff explained without them they simply had no work at all they could do.

This is one compelling reason why it’s really important to get a handle on these serious business-affecting issues, work out how much of a pain they are to you and put in place some plans for what you (and your people) do if they happen – the more severe the more seriously you need to consider investment in a more robust solution being a general rule of thumb.

Next time we’ll take a look at third-party suppliers and how to ensure they give you the best service/response they can possibly.

Mission critical – Planning for failure

Expect technology to fail, it’s one of its favourite things!

Better that and plan for it than be unprepared. Let’s consider an example of the Internet connectivity of a work from home micro business;

Work in a line, from the bottom to the top, or one end to the other.

First, ignore the Internet connection!

Why?

Internet connections have a service “guarantee” (more on that later) which sets out what you can expect. Beyond that you have little control – if it breaks it’ll be back when it’s back.
(The golden rule here: if it breaks, log the fault and keep pestering till it’s fixed).

Phone line next. It may be with a separate provider and is easy to test if, in the event of a failure, the fault is with line or connection – hint: a corded phone and mobile are handy here,
If you establish the failure is a line fault, report it and wait.

Next in line is our Internet router. As anything outside of the router is almost completely out of our control this is the first item we can properly look to secure.

We can mitigate power failures and protect from surges (we get a lot of “dirty” power here in Cornwall, surges cause damage). Even a modest (cheap) UPS will keep a router running for a good while.

If we have a router failure, we have options; reset to factory, get it fixed or swap it out. Assuming you have a backup of your settings (and if you don’t you really should!) reset/re-apply/replace as needed.

We mentioned severity before. If your internet router properly breaks it’s going to take a MINIMUM of one day to get a replacement (unless you live very near to a store that sells them) so your thoughts must include if can you cope with a day offline?

Portable device owners could work from another location. If you have a mobile broadband device/phone, you can use that instead. But, depending on your setup, your existing Office may be offline until a replacement is in hand, so you might consider keeping a spare.

This is, unfortunately, the high cost of preventing failures. If you max out your preventative measures you will need to at least purchase; a mobile broadband device (or use a mobile phone), UPS and a spare router.

Beyond your router lies your tools, the pen and paper of your business, either computers/laptops and printers/scanners. If you work in the cloud you need internet, if you work with local software you can still do some things without it.

Everything is replaceable in the event of a failure, but you still need to be aware just how you would do that if/when it does so planning is crucial.

A daunting process just for an individual working at home, imagine the permutations for larger firms and the myriad things they might want to consider?!

Next we’ll look at how you can keep going when something breaks.