mrc's Cup of Joe Blog

Save money, time, and increase business productivity

5 (unique) ways to improve business productivity with technology

trendsIn this article, we’ll explore actionable ways that your business can improve productivity. Since this is such a broad topic, I’m focusing only on improving productivity through the use of technology.

In the spirit of productivity, I don’t want to hide these tips behind a long intro. Rather, let’s get straight to the point with a couple of notes before we dive in.

    • This article is aimed at the business, not the individual. Sure, you might pull some ideas that you can implement in your daily work routine. But, the goal of this article is to help businesses become more productive.
    • This isn’t another generic ‘productivity tips’ list that you find posted and reposted all over the internet. I’m not going to share basic tips like “use a to-do list” or “get a second monitor.” Those things are obvious. Rather, we’re exploring actionable, unique ways to help your entire business move faster.

Sound good? Okay, let’s dive right in. Here are 5 ways to improve your organization’s productivity with technology:

1. Run an automation audit


Manual, time-wasting tasks are everywhere. They’ve become so engrained within daily routines, many employees don’t even realize they’re wasting time.

How can you identify these time-wasting tasks? Run an automation audit.

The first step: Understand your existing processes. Talk to your employees. Here are a couple of questions to use as a starting point:

    • “Which of your tasks do you think could be automated?” It’s an obvious question, but maybe they have ideas and just haven’t told anyone. You’ll find that some employees have great ideas but have never been asked to share them.
    • “What’s something that you have to do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis?” It’s an important question to ask because many employees don’t even realize one of their tasks can be automated. They’re just so used to doing it and might not realize there’s a better way.

Next, take these responses and make a list of your organization’s processes. This can include both important and mundane processes. As explained below, anything that requires an employee’s effort on a regular basis belongs on that list.

“Look to automate any menial task employees do more than once: Filling out spreadsheets, populating the CRM, sending outreach messages—these are tasks which can easily be automated with the right tool,” says Luke Bailey, Content Marketing Lead at Magical. “You can free up so much time by using the right piece of software to automate these time-sucks and giving your employees more opportunity to focus on the tasks that really matter in their roles.”

Now that you have a list, go through each one and answer three questions:

What starts the process?
Any process that you want to automate needs a clear trigger.

What’s the goal of this process?
Any process that you want to automate needs a clear result.

How important is this?
This question helps you understand which one to attack first.

Now, this is just the first step in automating your processes. If you’d like to see all of the steps, we wrote a whole article on the topic which you can find here: 9 steps to streamline any business workflow.

2. Create software that works the way you work

Let me ask you a question: Does your software work exactly the way you need? Does it perfectly adapt to your business…or do you adapt to your software?

In my experience, the latter usually applies. Off-the-shelf software can be customized…but only to a point. It rarely provides a 100% perfect fit.

For instance, I’ve seen organizations using niche software that’s designed for a very specific industry. It’s practically designed for their business, yet it only does about 95% of what they need. The other 5% requires manual workarounds.

That’s not a knock against business software. It’s just really hard to provide off-the-shelf software that perfectly fits every customer’s needs. Every business is different, even if they’re in the same industry.

What happens when software doesn’t perfectly fit your needs? It usually requires some sort of manual workaround…which wastes time. Depending on the issue, this can be anything from a minor inconvenience to a massive time drain.

What’s the answer? You need software that works the way you work. You need custom software. I realize that it’s time and cost-prohibitive to build custom software from the ground up. This is one of the big reasons why low-code development is growing so quickly. Businesses are realizing that low-code tools provide a couple of big advantages on this front:

  1. Low-code lets them create custom applications that perfectly fit their needs and workflow. They can design something from the ground up that works exactly the way they work.
  2. Low-code reduces development time dramatically. Depending on the tool, custom apps can be developed in days or weeks.

Essentially, low-code brings the best of both worlds. It delivers custom software that perfectly fits your needs AND is delivered quickly. From a productivity perspective, low-code provides massive potential.

3. Training on software tools

It’s one of the most common yet baffling problems found in businesses across the globe: Employees don’t know how to properly use the software they’re supposed to use.

For example, I just heard about a company that’s had a reporting tool for 10 years. Yet, most employees don’t know how to use it. Instead, they just bring their reporting requests to the one person who actually knows how to use it. Or worse, they continue to waste time compiling and analyzing data using inefficient manual processes. I know of other companies that have access to productivity software that could save them hours upon hours of time. Yet, no one bothers to learn it.

The problem is, I hear these stories all the time. Employees don’t know how to use software. Or, they’re wasting hours of time because they use it so inefficiently.

Why does this happen? Why do so many software tools go unused (or used inefficiently)? Maybe they were trained years ago, but forgot. Maybe they were never taught how to properly use the software and just tried to figure it out on their own. Or maybe they were hired after the software was implemented, and never received training.

I run across this so often and it doesn’t make sense. After all, you’ve invested in software. You’ve invested in your employees. Why not invest in training so your employees learn how to become more efficient with the software?

What if your company encouraged (or mandated) software training on whichever tools you or your employees use the most? My advice: Have your employees take a day or two for a training session on that software. Learn all the shortcuts. Understand how to use it more efficiently. While using a whole day might feel like a lot, the time savings will add up.

“Software training is one of the best ways to become more productive,” explains Coralee Bechteler, Business and Tech Specialist at Step by Step Business. “Learn the pre-configured shortcuts for frequently used applications, and create your own shortcuts when possible.”

4. Performance dashboards

Another great way to improve business performance: Establish clear goals and place them front and center.

What do I mean by that? Take your organization’s performance goals outside of the confines of the PC. Turn them into real-time performance dashboards and display them on giant monitors throughout the business.

This tactic helps keep your employees focused on what matters. If you’re falling behind your goals, they’ll know. If you’re beating your goals, they’ll know.

For instance, I know of one manufacturing company that displays dashboards on their shop floor. The dashboards track progress towards daily shipping goals throughout the day and are always accessible to their employees. It removes any sort of question about current progress and keeps employees focused on meeting their daily goals.

“Display performance screens,” says Matias Rodsevich, Founder and CEO of PRLab. “By showing performance in real-time you hold employees accountable. It is simple and effective. This is useful across departments where performance is linked with other teams, and can show staff how they fit into wider business goals. The display of real-time sales data can change an office environment and give it a boost when needed the most. It can motivate employees to do what needs to be done to reach that important end goal or target. The displays reduce the risk of managers ‘micro-managing’. Everyone knows where they stand at any given time and employees can make adjustments accordingly.”

5. Make sure you’re all on the same page

Software is simpler and more accessible than ever before. These days, anyone with a credit card can purchase and start using software tools in minutes. As a result, more and more software purchases are driven by the business side rather than the IT department.

This creates a couple of problems:

First, some companies have licensed many different software tools, some of which have overlapping capabilities. Employees may get confused as to which software tools they’re supposed to use for specific tasks.

“My top tip for business productivity no matter the industry or team size: Do a quick tool and systems audit and make sure you and your team have clarity and alignment on the systems you’re using, what each system is for, and your commitments to each other and your chosen systems,” says Kelly Harris Perin, Founder of Little Bites Coaching. “In my work with companies of all sizes, I find that the problem is rarely that teams don’t have a tool or system to do something. It’s much more common that they have too many systems, there’s confusion around what to use when, or people aren’t using the systems they have. Taking a few minutes in a team meeting to confirm, for example, that you use email for official work requests and slack for quick questions can save a lot of time and hassle and ensure you’re maximizing the tools you have.”

Secondly, employees (and even entire departments) often adopt and use their own tools because it’s so easy. While these tools might meet their short-term needs, this practice creates productivity issues for the business.

How so? Within a single business, different employees and departments might use different tools. As a result, they operate in silos. Sharing data and working together is far more difficult if you’re not all using the same software.

“To improve business productivity, you need to foster a culture that enables people to work independently without siloing,” says Benjamin Graham, Content strategist, AnswerConnect. “Siloing – the restriction of information between people or departments – can kill productivity stone dead. But simultaneously, the pressure to communicate every minute can stop you from getting anything done.”

Summary

These are just 5 ways to improve productivity with technology, but the list could certainly be longer. If you would like to add anything to this list, I’d love to hear it. Feel free to share in the comments.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for email updates

Sign up below, and we'll notify you of new blog articles via email. We value your privacy and will never share or sell your information. To learn more about how we handle data, please review our privacy policy.