There are some things that matter to all business owners, no matter the size of their company. Profitability, for example, is always a good thing. Who isn’t looking for ROI?
But you can’t have profits without performance. And performance will always be dependent on productivity. The more efficient you are, the more you’ll get done. The more you get done, the more opportunities you have to grow your customer base and improve your bottom line.
That’s more or less Business 101.
While every business out there is looking for ways to be more productive, small to medium-sized businesses need to be as efficient as possible. This is the make-or-break point for an SMB. You can’t afford to get this wrong.
Unlocking SMB Productivity
If boosting productivity is the lifeblood of SMB growth (and it is), how do you tap into greater efficiency? There are some small things you can do, like limiting unnecessary meetings, scheduling your workday in advance, and getting serious about a practical task management strategy. Each of those is a genuinely helpful approach, which is why we’ve included links in case you’d like to follow up on any of them.
But do you notice something missing?
In each case, those tips are focused on individual productivity, not team productivity. And individual productivity is not the same as team productivity. Unless your SMB is a one-person organization, you need both.
The most powerful boost in efficiency will happen when you unleash organization-wide change.
Technology to the Rescue (Sort of)
When it comes to improving business productivity, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck in the area of technology . . . if you use it the right way.
Think about it. The technological advancements of the last 20 years have radically changed how we live, from the way we ask for directions to the way we buy groceries. All our new tech toys were supposed to make our lives easier, less chaotic and far more productive. Have they? According to the statistics, no.
In fact, it’s so well known that technology has failed to make us more productive that articles are written about it frequently. It’s been dubbed “the productivity paradox.” We can do more with fewer resources in a shorter amount of time, yet the cold, hard facts betray a startling reality. We’re simply not more productive.
A provocative, insightful article published by Vox suggests a straightforward reason for the disconnect. “Why isn’t all this technology improving the economy? Because it’s not changing how we work.”
New technology certainly has the potential to positively impact productivity, but there are no guarantees. If you don’t use it the right way, it won’t make you more efficient. It could even slow you down.
Cloud Computing & Productivity
Among the game-changing technologies reshaping how SMBs work, few have been as powerful as cloud computing. Even if you don’t know exactly what cloud computing is, you’ve almost certainly heard the phrase. The cloud is taking over how business is done.
In general terms, “cloud computing” applies to any application or tool that you access remotely. Some cloud computing solutions are available for free, but these are primarily for private use. Gmail and Dropbox are both excellent examples.
Most business-oriented cloud computing solutions are available on a subscription basis that scales with your business needs and the number of users who require access. They include things like productivity suites (for example, Microsoft Office 365), project management systems, communication apps and even more sophisticated tools like backup solutions CRMs and ERP.
The beauty of cloud computing is that it pairs perfectly with the kind of workflow changes that make a real difference with team productivity.
The 4 C’s of Cloud Computing
The secret to turning cloud computing tools into productivity powerhouses comes down to how you use them. The technology alone won’t make you more efficient.
If you want to harness the power of cloud computing, stick to the 4 C’s.
First and foremost, implement the right tools the right way. The most amazing CRM in the world will do you little good if you completely botch the implementation process, leaving your staff with a sour taste in their mouths and no inclination to actually utilize your shiny new tech toy.
Even if your employees are enthusiastic about a new solution, it won’t matter if poor configuration keeps it from being useful.
Configuration starts with the selection of the cloud computing solution and continues all the way through deployment and employee training. There are several critical steps here. If your organization is very small (say, 5 or fewer employees), it’s possible to handle configuration on your own. If you’re any bigger, it will likely pay off to talk to an IT consultant.
Most cloud computing solutions have collaboration baked right into them. The trick is adapting your work processes to include that collaboration.
Take Microsoft Office 365 as an example. All your favorite Office applications (like Word, Excel and PowerPoint) are available on your desktop and via the cloud. Using the cloud-based versions of documents, spreadsheets and presentations, you can easily write, edit and design as a team.
You just have to remember Office 365 (or Google Docs, or whatever productivity suite you use) has this new functionality. There’s no need to email versions of a document back and forth, leaving yourself open to possible mistakes or missed edits.
Let’s explore Microsoft Office 365 a little deeper. If you pay the modest additional fee for Teams (currently only $5 per month per user), you also have a robust IM application at your disposal. You can use Teams to take collaboration and communication to a whole new level, embedding files into IM discussions right alongside your messages.
And Teams is just one of the many business communications apps available. In the IM arena alone there are several other worthy competitors, including Slack and Google Hangouts.
In each case, the challenge for you as the business owner is the same. Look at your business processes and provide your employees with clear direction about when and how to use IM tools for fast communication. There will, of course, be other times when face-to-face meetings or phone calls are preferable.
But cloud computing can help there, too. Options like video conferencing and hosted VoIP can supercharge your entire communications strategy.
Finally, one of the more well-known cloud computing functionalities is still an essential business tool—backup.
Regular data backups ensure that you don’t lose valuable information in the event of a disaster, which could be anything from a simple power outage to an act of God. Not only that, but backups make it possible to get back on your feet (and back to business) much faster in the wake of the unexpected.
The productivity payoff is huge, especially for small to medium-sized businesses that don’t have the capital to operate for months on end without revenue.
What will you do with cloud computing?
There are more cloud options than we could possibly cover in this space. Cloud computing is a beast, and its potential to overhaul SMB productivity is nothing short of revolutionary.
If you know how to use it.
Be smart. Be strategic. Don’t ever deploy a cloud solution “just because.” Know what you’re using, what it’s capable of, and deliver clear instructions to your team so everyone gets the most out of every cloud computing solution your business adopts.