The concept of leverage is simply doing more with less. It requires evaluating repetitive tasks in your business, and determining ways to systematize those tasks and making them easily and consistently repeatable. It seems like such a simple thing, and yet for some reason we as business owners and managers often don’t take the time to use leverage.
Applying leverage to your business is essential to get to the next level. One of the best ways to apply leverage is with technology. Sometimes we can see our way to apply technology to the level that our line of business software allows, or to the level that our software provider recommends, but going beyond that is difficult. The organizations that excel in the marketplace go beyond the easy points of leverage and take things to the another step.
Using technology to leverage your business is different depending on your type of business and where you are now with technology. However, there are some key things to look for when finding ways to leverage.
1. Don’t Overlook the Obvious.
What is right in front of you or your department heads that is taking lots of people time? Where is your biggest bottleneck? What causes the most frustration, or the most delay, or is the most repetitive. Often we accept things because they have always been that way. Sometimes changing our own thought process is the biggest challenge. Challenge your reality. Does it have to work that way? One great way to challenge things is to explain the way things work now to an impartial but understanding friend or business colleague. If it sounds crazy to them, it probably needs to be changed.
2. Follow the Paper.
Are you still shuffling paper from desk to desk, department to department, and through the production process? Getting rid of paper is not just for the ecofriendly, when done properly it saves time, effort, and has a dramatic impact on service, delivery and production. Be careful to use the right tools when embarking on this path. An automated content system with workflow will produce the right results. Scanning to a network share with PDF files may actually take extra time and be less efficient than paper.
3. Do Your Systems Talk?
Does your (LOB) Line of Business Software talk to your other systems? Is there a seamless path between your sales, quoting, and CRM system and your production system? Do you have a CRM system? Do you have a content management system? If not, you just might be missing one of the legs to the three legged technology stool that every business needs. To leverage technology in your business these systems should be in place and they should talk to each other.
4. Have You Considered Interacting with Customers via the Web?
Have you considered this again? Many of us crossed some of this off our list a year or two ago, but may need to reconsider again. The easy ways to automate are to send invoices via the web, allow sales inquiries via the web, and involve your company with social media. Have you considered web based scheduling, or delivery of manuals, documents and work product via the web? Several of my customers have told me of dramatic increases in business from customers as a result of putting their products on the web. Some in the millions of dollars in revenue each year.
5. Network with Similar Businesses that are not Competitors.
In the past technical service providers have never been great at creating a network or association of non-competing businesses. In recent years several nationwide groups of technical companies have started up, and I have gained a great deal of insight from working with these groups. It is great to have some practical knowledge of what other companies like yours are doing and what has been successful. Using this industry specific knowledge is great way to get a step up on understanding what technology might best benefit your company.
6. Ask Your Strategic IT Person.
For those of you who currently work with CT, we offer strategic consulting, as part of our managed Complete Care IT package, so we would be glad to help with this. We also have hourly and project based consulting services available from experienced CIO level people.
In a faster paced world, where doing more with less seems to be the mantra, creating systems and processes is key to growing any business. Regardless of your size or level of automation, there are always new ways to leverage technology and create greater efficiency. Take a step back and consider what else you might do to improve, and consider that as your business grows more reliant on technology, so does the need to manage it more proactively and with a structured consistent approach.