How do we improve the value we get from our IT systems?

I just spent a few hours learning about all the time saving features associated with HP printers.

I have worked with HP printers throughout my career and have collected a fair bit of knowledge about how they work, how to install and configure them and how to fix them when they stop working. But I had never been told about all the productivity features they offer in such a concise session before. This got me thinking about how much we deprive ourselves of the value at hand while we complain about the cost of technology.

In a world of complex technology, we are all struggling to get the help we need. I see a massive opportunity in business at the moment to improve the value of IT systems by having a focus on learning about the time and cost saving features of the hardware and software we already have. That includes both the simplest rules in Outlook that automatically deal with regular emails, to the smarter features of our office printers.

The information session ran through the built in tools, the “apps” of the printing world, that come free with the hardware. All we have to do is turn them on and use them. The analogy offered was it is like buying a smartphone and only using it to makes calls.

Today, we would not pay several hundred dollars for a mobile phone if all it did for us was be a phone. We pay for messaging, email, games, camera and all the other apps we have come to depend on.

There are two key areas where we as SME business owners need to improve. One is the way we look at business problems and seek efficiency solutions, the other is in how we train our staff on the tools we have purchased.

There is an interesting trend in Australia to under spend on staff training. We all expect them to just know how to use the tools the company bought.

So how can we change the situation?

  • Investigate business problems and ask for advice from analysts on how to solve the problem. Consider the options the analysis throws up.
  • Investigate technologies that can resolve the problems and compare the deeper features of the technology you are contemplating.
  • Implement technology that has broader capabilities and then seek ways to use the capabilities to improve business processes.
  • Train your relevant staff on how to use the tools properly.
  • Set up refresher courses.
  • Include the training in future induction processes to ensure new staff can repeat the use of the tools.

This seems simple and obvious but, at least anecdotally, we are very bad at doing it. One example that stuck in my mind is the ability to manage printers in a way that lets us store forms in the printer library so that we can walk up to the printer, select the relevant form and print it. There’s no need to manually load forms that expire or need changing. As these stored forms expire across the business, we can update them globally from a central printer management console so no one has access to the out of date forms.

This sort of technology can be used in banks, insurance offices, your consulting practice or my IT company. Where else can it be used but is not?

There are so many opportunities to use our existing technology to deliver greater value if we just stop and ask it to. Sometimes we need to decide we will fix a problem and then ask the right questions. Are you asking the right questions in your business?

David Markus is the founder of Combo – the IT services company that ensures IT is never an impediment to growth.

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