Are you running your business like you did in the eighties, nineties? If so, you are probably working like a donkey and probably for the same kind of income – if you are even making any!
Business automation is something that has developed albeit quite slowly, over decades and accelerated significantly in the advent of the “www ” and now even more so the with the Internet of Things (IoT).
Let’s begin looking communication – a key pillar in running any successful venture. Getting in touch with clients can now occur in numerous ways and we have come a long way from shouting “extra, extra read all about it” on street corners, to invading places of comfort and abode with door-to-door sales visits.
We can now get in touch physically (though rarely unless required such as in a shop setting), via phone, Skype, Emails, online chatting, video-conferencing, and social media. And though it may sound like overkill, using these tools can actually help save time and target your product offerings and marketing campaigns – making then efficient and worth every penny/cent spent on them.
Hosting email nowadays does not require only the expertise of IT professionals – who are now discovering they have more time to perform administrative work (much needed productivity reports) rather than the mundane tasks of backing up servers, or grudgingly coming out of their dark holes to walk from PC to PC installing software that can consume hours during the day and, probably gets on the nerves of people trying to get work done.
They can now administer and carry out their IT-related tasks from the comfort of their office or remotely (at home or while attending a conference) and from their PCs, laptops and even on their smartphones!
Emails are hosted with a few clicks and ran smoothly on desktops, mobile phone, and tablets with a simple syncing feature made possible by a newer mail protocol known as Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). You can now synchronize your emails, calendars, and events as well as your contacts on all your devices, for instance, using Microsoft Exchange Online services. This are strenuous tasks that an IT professional would have had to manually create using special scripted rules via PowerShell, patches, domain routers (adding more costs) to a normal physical server to enable such functionality.
The cloud has made this all possible and while we will not get into the intricacies and workings of the cloud, I have in my working experience, seen a massive uptake of it by companies of all sizes, countries, and industries (including healthcare, education, financial and governmental institutions).
This uptake of cloud services is happening on a regular basis as old servers are being made redundant and getting subjected to creative destruction in the IT industry. Software as a Service (SaaS), which is what it is called, is basically the hiring of software rather than owning it and leaving the (usually costly) maintenance to the software provider.
Major cloud players such as Microsoft Azure, Amazon, IBM, Google Business and SAP, for example, will offer their clients the software just as a front-end and user-friendly application and will take care of the back-end operations such as backups, updates, and upgrades, maintenance, security and compliance for an annual or monthly fee. You can liken this to hire-purchase or the car leasing services that the automobile industry offers its clients. The car servicing and maintenance is performed timeously by the manufacturer while you just drive it and pay for your own fuel on top of the monthly leasing fees (soon to be monetized or paid for using Cryptos such as IOTA).
Another daunting yet integral task in running a business is the act of hosting meetings. Business meetings are often rescheduled as easily as procrastinating a spring cleaning exercise in the middle of summer whilst on holiday, mainly because of the availability of participants or lack of the material required to make a presentation to participants. Tools that foster online meetings such as Skype for Business for example (relevant because of its growing popularity and compatibility with Office apps), allows you to schedule meetings from a calendar event that is set up in your email application like Outlook. This sends you and your meeting participants a reminder and then, with a click of a button you can join, host or participate in a full-on HD video or audio conference type call from wherever you are on the globe.
The kicker with this tool is the ability to present your full (hopefully clean and avoid any embarrassing items) desktop, to all participants. So, you can present an Excel spreadsheet of financial data, discuss the design of a brochure or flyer for marketing, or run a PowerPoint presentation – complete with an infrared pointer!
All these services obviously require great Internet connectivity and which is probably the only stumbling block deterring many smaller companies and some big data-sensitive firms (who still have security, compliance and legal concerns relating to the storage of data), from taking on the cloud. But as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and now local governments are now actively getting involved in making broadband (Wi-Fi and fiber cable networks) a necessity for all – this should soon change.
So, you see, just from this highly compressed explanation and examples of two tasks carried out by businesses, there are endless possibilities that the cloud and good software, in general, can offer a business when it comes to automating time-consuming activities. For more solutions, have a look at the previous blog on sales software and CRM systems to understand a bit more about how SaaS can help grow revenue for the business.
This is also in no way advocating for substituting human personal interactions with technology but just to find ways to bridge the gap when one finds that personal contact is not possible/feasible and rather than losing out altogether on a good productive meeting, or having to spend hours in traffic leading to stress at work or worse even – spend large budgets on unnecessary travel, marketing and communication tools that are not effective. Allow software automation to help you!