In the business world small can mean nimble, agile and responsive, but it often also means a lack of resources compared to larger rivals. Thankfully cloud collaboration tools make enterprise-grade services accessible and affordable for even the smallest business, letting you work smarter rather than just work harder.
The cloud is the great equaliser, empowering small businesses to punch above their weight to win that David and Goliath battle. And it’s often about using resources you already have available to you – it’s just about knowing how to use them.
Take stock of your situation
Australian small business productivity consultant Debbie Eglin of Productivity Hub says most small businesses are using less than 50 per cent of the technology they already have in place and are paying for.
This is particularly true if you are already using technology, software and document management systems with one of the big players.
The first step for any small business looking to enhance their offering is to look at the capabilities of the systems already in place before going to market for anything new. You might find you already have incredible capabilities within your business that aren’t being utilised.
Getting the most out of your existing systems
Natalie Adamson from Soap, a creative digital agency that specialises in advertising campaigns, app and website builds, says that using Microsoft Teams integrated technology offers them the capability to better communicate on significant projects.
“It allows us to chat instantly,” she says.
Adamson adds that the file-sharing capabilities on offer are another huge plus from a project management standpoint.
“It is much easier than email … and helpful when communicating to just one team member or to partial groups in the team.”
For John Drury, business mentor and author of Integrate – Why work-life balance is a myth, technology has revolutionised his business. Integration within his project platform allows Drury to ensure consistent delivery for clients, while establishing templates ensures that best practice has been defined and nothing gets missed.
“The cloud technology I use gives me maximum return for minimal cost,” says Drury.
“The time and cost of someone manually performing the tasks that I have managed or automated would far surpass the small monthly investment I make.”
“These are all things that previously would have taken time that I can now spend on the really important things in the business that just cannot be outsourced like high-level client work and sales.”
To really get the most out of your technology and the opportunities to simplify – or even automate process – Eglin says you need to take a step back and map out your activity flow throughout the business.
What information should be shared where? What triggers a task or action? What can you automate to reduce manual input? Once you understand your activity flow and what you want to happen, you can start to investigate ways to streamline those activities.
It’s a tactic that has worked for Adamson, who states that integrated collaboration tools “helps us communicate more effectively and keep everything in one place rather than having multiple channels were things can get confusing”.
Three steps to making cloud integration a breeze
So, how do you do it? Opportunities abound when you integrate your technology, but knowing where to start can be difficult. Here we outline the easiest ways to integrate your technology and power your business like the big guys.
- Review what you already have.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is paying for software they don’t need. Before you start to map out your needs it’s important to look at the systems you already have in place, and delve into the capabilities on offer. It could be that you are you are in possession of some top-notch technology – you just need to learn how to drive it.
- Map out your desired processes.
This is not about working out what software you need, but what processes you have and desire. By mapping out your process first you are identifying any potential roadblocks, and thinking about how you can streamline your existing processes.
- Determine the technology that will help you achieve your goals.
Now that you know what you want to achieve it’s time to look at what you need in order to achieve your goals. Again, take a look at what you uncovered in step one. Where possible you should be ensuring that all your systems are on the one platform.
While the above sounds simple, it should be approached like any project management task, with rigour and as much detail as possible. This will ensure the best outcome for your business.
*Included in the Office 365 Business Essentials and Office 365 Business Premium subscription.
For small businesses, technology can make the difference in driving your company ahead, setting you apart from your competition. But the challenge is ‘how do you get there’? Microsoft can help make the benefits of modern technology a reality for your business