I don’t know what new technology would be most valuable to introduce to my business, how should I decide?
There are existing networks to help businesses share best practices and advice on technology such as a local Chamber of Commerce or UK Business Forums. Utilise your own network and speak to people from businesses of a similar size or in the same sector, find out what they think improves the way they work. Before introducing new technology, have a clear idea of what your overall business objectives are and then decide how technology can support them. There are a range of free tools and free trials available, particularly for business software and applications, which can help you progress without making a large upfront investment.
How do I decide between competing tools and services?
A good starting point are the online reviews available for enterprise technology from sites like techradar, Tech Advisor and Which? For example, Techradar pro publishes an up to date guide of the best mobile and desktop tools for small businesses. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn and Reddit can also be a useful source of information on new technology. Most technology vendors also provide set up guides, YouTube videos, and webinars for users. Seeing demonstrations of the technology in action will give you an understanding of how intuitive it is to use and whether the user experience will be suitable for you and your staff.
How do I ensure new technology is secure?
When introducing new technology, one of your first considerations must be security. Security failures can have far reaching and long-term consequences for your business. Your local network and each of your computers should have a firewall as well as anti-virus software. Ensure all of your data is backed up and that you have a recovery plan in place in case something does go wrong.
Remain vigilant against phishing scams, viruses and harmful websites and have policies on acceptable IT use in place. Ensure compliance with relevant regulation such as GDPR and if you are handling financial or sensitive personal information, it may be worthwhile hiring a professional IT security consultant.
How do I train staff to use new technology?
Adopting new technology impacts everyone, so communicate your plan for new technology clearly and enthusiastically to staff. Technology failures are often a result of staff being unwilling or unable to use new technology. This is often simply a case of being comfortable with existing processes. To make adoption as widespread as possible it is important to ensure employees understand the reasons behind change and involving them in the change process where possible. Listening to opinions and concerns, and adjusting your deployment as needed, is important for achieving adoption.
Encourage staff to engage in training courses and e-learning around new tools and share ideas and best practice throughout the business. If you can, set aside a small amount of time each month that staff can dedicate to IT training. This will allow staff to improve their own IT skills whilst having an immediate business impact.
I want to improve the effectiveness of remote working in my business, how should I go about it?
Effective remote work begins with direction from senior management and is enabled across all levels with the right technology. You can introduce elements to your company culture which encourage remote working in the right contexts. For example, you can encourage teams to include video conferencing details in meeting requests, to give people the option of attending in person or remotely.
Once you enable and encourage staff to work remotely from a cultural perspective, you need to have the right tools in place to do so. The most important are video conferencing tools and collaboration tools. There has been huge innovation in video conferencing in recent months and many services are available on basic plans for free. When these are complemented with collaboration tools which allow teams to work on documents together and save them in the cloud, you can recreate most of the important elements of the office virtually.
It is also important to consider the security of documents and remote devices with firewalls, anti-virus software and a VPN. Alphr has a simple guide to VPNs for remote working. If your organisation is larger or more complex you may wish to seek professional advice on ensuring the security of remote working.
Trello have produced an extensive how to guide which contains advice from a number of businesses which have embraced remote working.
How do we use technology to make the business as lean as possible?
Technology can help employees carry out their role more effectively and ensure your business processes are as efficient as possible.
To boost your business’s productivity, identify your pain points and obvious inefficiencies. These will often be the duplication of work, such as manual data entry, and implement technologies that can automate these processes. Tools for communication and real time collaboration can enable teams to work more quickly and easily reduce the level of internal administration.
How can I rethink or resize my premises/office environments to reduce costs?
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the future of work and office-based working into sharp focus. You may have found that remote working has been a success for your business and consider introducing flexible working permanently. Rents are a significant fixed cost for most businesses and opportunities to reduce costs need to be considered carefully.
As a starting point, list all the benefits of being in an office environment for your business. These may include in person meetings with colleagues, clients, and prospects to build personal relationships. Focus on the real value that office space creates for your business and decide from there how much space you really need.
Keep in mind that from the 1 August, the government will change its guidance on working from home, giving employers more discretion as to whether employees continue to work from home where possible, or begin to return to Covid-secure workplaces.
How can I run virtual events for training my staff and nurturing sales leads?
Whilst working remotely poses a challenge to running engaging and productive learning sessions or sales calls, the acceleration in remote and virtual technology in recent months, as well as our understanding of how best to use these, means remote training can be just as effective as in-person sessions.
With the majority of SME owners and staff having worked remotely for at least a few months by this point, we should be used to the usual pitfalls and issues related to weak WiFi, at-home disturbances and the usual tech problems. Whilst you can’t account for every variable working remotely can bring, it’s important to control what you can. For training and sales events alike, make sure your materials are prepped in advance and to-hand for the session; make sure your location and setup minimises disruptions and distractions; and have your timings and structure clearly planned out in advance.
When planning and organising virtual training or sales calls, it’s important to not simply ‘cut and paste’ your in-person strategy to video calls. Cvent have compiled a great list of top tips for ensuring your training session or sales call runs smoothly, covering tech, preparation and best practices, with e-learning industry also offering some great advice on running successful online courses, which can easily be applied to training or sales sessions.
To make sure your audience are engaged throughout training sessions, build in question and answer or interactive elements to the presentation- virtual sessions make it harder to read reactions, so make sure your session remains engaging and to the point. If you are running a longer training session, make sure to build in breaks and rest periods.
Maintaining, or progressing, existing relationships with current or prospective clients also requires a renewed approach. Make sure to use the digital tools you have available and consider your targets, and, as noted earlier, make sure your tech, environment and materials are prepared well in advance to allow your sales calls to run smoothly and efficiently. Freshworks have published an in-depth guide on how to approach, execute and assess your sales during this time.