How Does Technology Improve a Business?

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Think back to how business was done a few decades ago. There was no email, Internet, mobile marketing, telecommuting or smartphones. Now communications are instantaneous, huge amounts of information move through email and the Internet and powerful tools are in the hands of owners and employees. Innovations in technology have improved operations at companies of all sizes and helped turn small local businesses into global businesses.

Communication

Cell phones have become small business necessities for owners and employees. These devices are lifelines for staying in touch when on the road and responding to customer inquiries in a timely manner. Smartphones raise the bar with access to the Internet, email and business applications in a small hand held device. Email, text messaging and social networking are other advances in communication that keep small businesses connected to their customer bases and improve internal communication within the company.

Marketing

Technology has freed small businesses from the restrictions of prints ads when it comes to reaching new and existing customers. Internet marketing ranges from a simple informational website, to advertising on search engines, to online product sales. Email marketing is an effective and low cost method to reach a large group of people with a newsletter, coupons or business updates. Mobile marketing is a relatively new frontier that reaches people through text messaging, advertising on mobile applications and offering branded applications that tie customers into what is happening with the business in a fun and entertaining way.

Productivity

Small businesses need to wring every ounce of productivity out of their operations and technology tools help employees get tasks done more quickly. This may range from printing out marketing materials to providing customer service through email or online chat. The key is to keep employees focused when using technology and to use it appropriately with the goal of saving time. Sometimes, a phone call may be more efficient and productive than an email. Provide employees with the right hardware and updated software to keep them working at peak proficiency.

Customer Service

Technology brings businesses closer to customers. Businesses use email to answer questions, offer online chat to help customers that are visiting the business website, and equip call centers with the latest phone equipment that makes customer service agents more efficient. Give customers a choice of ways to contact the company. Technology is powerful, but keep the people element in mind and don’t skimp on training employees in effective customer service techniques and the proper use of the technology.

Telecommuting

Many small businesses now offer telecommuting and flex time as benefits. Colleagues can stay in touch from different locations, and when working different hours, by using email, online collaboration tools and mobile computing devices. When in the office, workers can share digital documents, convey information through presentations and create training videos to bring new employees up to speed.

Teleconferencing

Teleconferencing over the phone is one of the simplest conferencing methods, but advancement in recent years have brought web conferencing to the fore. Web conferencing can bring together web cams, audio and collaborative online meeting spaces to create an extremely interactive environment. Participants can see each other, work together on documents and recreate the in-person meeting experience no matter where they are in the world. This is one way that small businesses can extend their reach to include global customers and workers.

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What are some of the challenges that organizations face in today’s environment?

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Companies today are faced with a host of issues, which may cripple their functionality, or in some extreme cases render the organizations obsolete.

These challenges are dependent on the nature of operations of the company but broadly, there are common challenges, which are faced by a majority of organizations.

  • Technological advancements today are on the increase more than in the previous century. For an organization to offer services, which are relevant, cost effective and compatible with society’s needs, modern technology has to be employed. The initial cost of acquiring it, maintaining and running operations using the acquired technology is inhibitive. This is worsened by the short lifespan of most technological innovation which imply that companies and or organizations have to reinvest in current technology frequently so as to sustain their relevance.

Considering that today’s environment consists of the people, who are the recipients of a firm’s services or goods, the fast changing nature of peoples likes, dislikes, preferences, opinions and lifestyles is thus a challenge facing organizations.

  • Generational gaps have created a difficulty in determining consumer behaviors, yet most companies are investing heavily in customer behavior analysis to determine the most appropriate way of matching customers’ needs. Coupled with competition, (both fair and unfair) the challenge of making profit has been pushed to only the top notch large scale organizations.
  • Unstable economies and currencies are another factor causing constant instability in the running of corporations. Though this has of late been caused by other external factors such as exchange rates, amount of exports and imports and political factors. There has been a relatively high incidence of economic instability in the recent past.

Albeit, national economies are recovering from a global economic meltdown today, most organizations have been negatively affected by the meltdown leading to massive layoffs.

  • Frauds and cases of fraudulent or questionable business operations and agreements have been on the increase in the recent past. The custodians of an organizations policy are increasingly bending the organizations guidelines creating loopholes in various systems. This has led to heavier investments in more secure operational systems, to avoid loses created by those who are meant to safeguard it.

It is worthy to note that this has led to more stringent recruitment procedures, which attempt to assess the risk a company invites once it employs an individual. This trend is upcoming and most organizations are grappling with it today. In essence, factors both within and outside the corporation’s environment are continually impacting negatively on the success hence there is need for more efforts to be applied if organizations are to meet their aims.

What are some of the challenges that organizations face in today’s environment?

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Corporate responsibility programs can help businesses entice customers, attract and retain talent, assure investors, reduce operating costs, improve employee morale and enhance a company’s reputation. However, business owners should understand the benefits and limitations of corporate responsibility programs in order to choose an initiative that benefits the community and the company.

Resource Investment

Convincing shareholders or other financial decision makers to allocate resources to a program designed to benefit something other than the company’s bottom line can be the first obstacle a small business owner must overcome. To sway reluctant company leaders or employees, a small business owner can explain that customer buying decisions are influenced by company behavior.

Company Integration

To be successful, corporate responsibility programs must be embraced and supported by top management and woven into company culture and operations. Stakeholders will soon become skeptical of one-time initiatives or programs that come and go. Timing also can be a problem. Corporate responsibility programs introduced to sway public opinion immediately after a company crisis can do more reputation damage if they are perceived by customers and stakeholders as insincere.

Communication

Small businesses owners should not assume that customers and community members know about the company’s investment in socially responsible programs. They should not only explain the company’s actions but how these actions are helping improve the community, Langert explains. Including a description of company initiatives in an annual report or taking pictures of an employee volunteer effort and posting to a company’s website are strategies for communicating a company’s corporate responsibility efforts.

Identifying Benefits

The business benefits of corporate responsibility programs are not always immediately tangible. For example, while it’s difficult to link investments in corporate responsibility programs to increased profits, there is evidence that these programs can protect the reputation of an organization during times of company crisis.

What is Employee Performance Monitoring Services?

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Monitoring the activities of your employees is a simple task; however, measuring and monitoring subjective matters, including motivation, job satisfaction and performance, take a great degree of skill, innovation and expertise from your human resources department. There are several methods to consider for each measurement, and in many instances trial and error may be the only road to perfecting a system that works well for your organization.

Track motivation of your employees through observation of how enthusiastic they are about arriving at the job site, interacting with colleagues and engaging in activities to which they are assigned. In “Measuring Employee Motivation”, the author observes, “It seems as though a growing number of senior executives are drawing a link between employee motivation and business success. As a result they are keen to know how motivated staff are, and what causes any lack of motivation.” Individuals who exhibit a collegial attitude about working with others generally have high levels of motivation. In addition, the level of motivation among the work force can also be measured by the improvements in performance appraisals, and the quality of work performed. For young staffers new to the work force, the motivated employees will likely be the ones who demonstrate initiative by asking for additional work or more challenging assignments. For seasoned employees, their motivation is obvious in the ways they offer assistance to new employees, and seek ways to improve company processes and procedures for better efficiency and effectiveness.

Calculate responses from employee opinion survey results to determine the level of job satisfaction among your work force. Your human resources leader can construct survey methodology that elicits information from each employee about the sense of job satisfaction, which is usually connected to employees’ feelings about job security. Outside influences may skew responses somewhat, but for the most part, the responses you receive from an anonymous and confidential survey may prove enlightening for your human resources department and your executive leadership team. The followup activities for any employee opinion survey is creating an action plan to address deficiencies your employees believe can be easily corrected. Another way to improve job satisfaction subsequent to administration of your employee opinion survey is including employees in the resolution of issues discovered in their responses. Share with your employees the timeline and results of the executive team’s activities. Your employees will feel that you are genuinely interested in their job satisfaction.

Conduct annual performance appraisals to measure employee performance. Your human resources leader develops a performance management program that is best suited to your company business, industry, number of employees and type of work environment. The performance management process actually begins once the employee joins your company and can, therefore, be continuously measured throughout the year. If managers adhere to best practices for providing employee feedback on a regular basis, it is very realistic to have a read on the level of employee performance at any time–not just during the performance appraisal season. Another test for employee performance is obtaining feedback from colleagues willing to share information about employees with whom they work or observe. This type of peer evaluation can be extremely helpful, and it doesn’t need to be a complex 360 degree performance appraisal system.

How to Automate MIS Reports?

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Creating a Single Source of Truth

Standardization and simplicity of MIS reports is a challenge that many organizations face with the growing complexities of business. Every unit starts maintaining its own reports and often all the reports do not give consistent information and decision making takes longer as different MIS need to be reconciled. Geographical spread of an organization across various countries also makes it challenging to have standardized MIS with consistent definitions across geographies.

We will use our extensive business experience to develop an MIS engine for your organization. Building an MIS engine or an MIS platform comes after creating data warehouse and datamarts which contain multi-dimensional data. Following are the steps involved in building robust MIS capabilities in any organization:

  • Identify all business processes which need to have an MIS (Sales, Collections,    Marketing, Underwriting etc)
  • Identify measures (sale units, dollar sales)
  • Identify dimensions (product, location, time, vintage etc)
  • Determine the lowest level of summary (daily, monthly, quarterly, annually etc)
  • Agree the reporting formats that best suit the stakeholders (excel tables, bar graphs, pie    charts etc)
  • Decide the periodicity of reports

All the MIS reports would be automated so that an incoming email from client can trigger the report generation. This will help your organization build a ‘single view of truth’ by:

  • Standardization across units, functions and geographies
  • Automating the MIS
  • Consistency in numbers across organization
  • Reducing cost of producing MIS

Three Risks Small Businesses face and how to combat them

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Any new business there is an element of risk involved. After all, taking the plunge and setting up on your own is a huge step and one that should be taken seriously. A lot of thought needs to be given to the type of business you plan to start, the target demographic and whether you have a unique selling point (USP) that will put you a step ahead of the competition.

While there is bound to be risk involved when a new business is conceptualized, there are ways in which these risks can be minimized. It may be tempting to ignore risks related to legal, financial, or staffing issues, but it’s better to know how to deal with them, and how to prevent them so that you don’t face problems in the future.

For example, while you should hopefully never face the prospect of bankruptcy, having a financial plan in place will help to minimize the risk of debt and the serious impact it can have on your business. Risk management may seem daunting, but if you break it down into stages, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Financial risk

Money matters can be the bane of your business’ existence if you don’t get things in order. Both external and internal factors can hugely affect your cash flow and impact substantially on the chances of success.

Before you even start your company, you need to create a foolproof business and financial plan that you can use when chatting to financial providers, or refer to for your own benefit. Planning your financial projections will give you more of an idea of what to expect, while minimizing the risk of fumbling blindly into the future.

Make sure that you have the right amount of start-up funds available to you so that you know you can afford to run with your venture. If you don’t have the funds yourself, it’s recommended you chat to an advisory for help.

Those who can’t secure financing tend to use their own personal savings but remember that if the business fails, you also risk losing out personally.

Legal risks

The last thing a small business owner will want to face is legal proceedings. You could be sued for any number of reasons: failing in a duty of care to a client; a service or product you provide not performing as a client expects; a member of staff suffering an injury at work; a member of the public tripping over a piece of office equipment at your premises; or even you spilling a cup of coffee over a client’s computer. What about that picture on your website? Do you have the relevant copyright? And where did you get the idea for your business? Someone could claim that you are infringing their intellectual property.

Again, good risk management here is essential in identifying the potential risks your business faces and taking precautions which can range from providing a safe working environment, to making sure you have permission to use any third party imagery on websites for example.

You will also need to ensure that all the necessary business insurance is in place. Some areas of cover such as employer’s liability are mandatory for virtually every business that has employees. Other policies such as professional indemnity are often required by clients as a condition of working with them. Additional areas of cover include public liability and product liability as well as cover for office buildings and contents.

Staff risk

Investing in that first employee is often one of the biggest decisions any small business will take. Not only is there the financial commitment of a regular monthly wage to pay – regardless of how the business has done that month – but there are swathes of policies and procedures that come with taking on employees.

You have a legal duty to provide a safe and comfortable working environment. Government bodies such as the Health and Safety Executive provide useful risk assessment information to make sure health and safety isn’t compromised and that you stay within the law. As mentioned, employer’s liability cover is usually mandatory.

Staff training of course will be essential to make sure that the service your business delivers continues to be of high quality and your clients don’t have cause to complain, or, even worse, sue you.

Staff fraud and dishonesty can also be an unfortunate consequence and again, you will need to have procedures in place to prevent it from happening and deal with it if it does.

Ensuring success

Many new businesses fail not because the product or service was a failure but because they failed to proactively tackle the key areas of risk that come with setting up any business. If you can identify the risks and deal with them before they become an issue, you will be well on the way to a fruitful future as a business owner.

Important Characteristics of Good Management Information Systems

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For information to be useful to the decision maker, it must have certain characteristics and meet certain criteria.

Some of the characteristics of good information are discussed as follows:

Understandable:

Since information is already in a summarized form, it must be understood by the receiver so that he will interpret it correctly. He must be able to decode any abbreviations, shorthand notations or any other acronyms contained in the information.

Relevant:

Information is good only if it is relevant. This means that it should be pertinent and meaningful to the decision maker and should be in his area of responsibility.

Complete:

It should contain all the facts that are necessary for the decision maker to satisfactorily solve the problem at hand using such information. Nothing important should be left out. Although information cannot always be complete, every reasonable effort should be made to obtain it.

Available:

Information may be useless if it is not readily accessible ‘ in the desired form, when it is needed. Advances in technology have made information more accessible today than ever before.

Reliable:

The information should be counted on to be trustworthy. It should be accurate, consistent with facts and verifiable. Inadequate or incorrect information generally leads to decisions of poor quality. For example, sales figures that have not been adjusted for returns and refunds are not reliable.

Concise:

Too much information is a big burden on management and cannot be processed in time and accurately due to “bounded rationality”. Bounded rationality determines the limits of the thinking process which cannot sort out and process large amounts of information. Accordingly, information should be to the point and just enough – no more, no less.

Timely:

Information must be delivered at the right time and the right place to the right person. Premature information can become obsolete or be forgotten by the time it is actually needed.

Similarly, some crucial decisions can be delayed because proper and necessary information is not available in time, resulting in missed opportunities. Accordingly the time gap between collection of data and the presentation of the proper information to the decision maker must be reduced as much as possible.

Cost-effective:

The information is not desirable if the solution is more costly than the problem. The cost of gathering data and processing it into information must be weighed against the benefits derived from using such information.