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How the cloud helps small businesses increase productivity

How can you increase your company’s productivity by adopting more software?

Using the cloud can increase productivity

Michael Wood, co-founder of Receipt Bank, knows productivity matters – the more productive you are the more you can earn. Despite this simple truth the majority of small businesses are too busy to review their processes, and the way they work, to look for opportunities to improve productivity. Technology is the solution.

Not enough small businesses are taking advantage of the productivity gains that are offered by technology. In principle, we have embraced technology: who would consider sending letters instead of emails? But in the past few years, tech innovation has shifted to the cloud so that now it’s cloud services that are transforming business practices. These services bring several opportunities to boost productivity, profits, and growth. But many otherwise-savvy SME owners are being slow to embrace this software revolution.

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This means missing out on a huge opportunity. Software companies aren’t the only businesses that can live and breathe software. After all, we have all embraced software as consumers: we use Facebook to communicate with friends and family; we listen to music via phone apps; we use Amazon to get exactly what we want instead of searching the high street. Automating processes with technology should be a natural transition for any organisation, and a vital use of the resources now at your disposal.

Besides, the definition of what is a ‘software company’ has expanded significantly in recent years. If you’re actively building or buying technology that improves your workflows, you’re running a software company – even if you don’t know it, or didn’t set out to do this. The cloud makes this possible.

How can you increase your company’s productivity by adopting more software? It’s a good idea to start with the realisation that you probably know a lot more than you think you do about this. You’re not starting from scratch: your email, banking, and social media are already cloud-based. You’re not ‘switching to the cloud’ but simply expanding your use of it. The second consideration I’ve found useful is to ask yourself this: what are you doing regularly that costs you more money and/or time than it should? What is slowing your business down – and how can these constraints be removed?

For example, small businesses that are having difficulty managing their money can have their bank data automatically imported with Xero’s cloud-based accountancy package.

If your team is having a communications breakdown (and it can be difficult to keep track of where everyone’s at with a project), Slack lets you create subject-based chat rooms with options for private messaging and closed groups. If your customer care department frequently finds itself dealing with the same enquiries, ZenDesk provides self-service, ticketing, and knowledge base functionality- saving your team precious time. Whatever your problem, I can guarantee there’s an affordable way to automate it.

In fact, this is precisely why I took over Receipt Bank in 2010: I was struggling with managing receipts and other financial data, and the software effectively solved this issue. Learning that the company was about to close down, and sensing an opportunity, I bought it – and if nothing else, its success and growth since then has proven that many other people suffer the same accounting woes.

All too often, businesses make the mistake of thinking that the latest software is something that’s ‘nice to have’ but hardly an essential. To put this into context, Blockbuster’s reluctance to change lead to its demise, losing out initially to new kids on the block, Lovefilm, and latterly, Netflix and Amazon Prime. It’s also easy to think that because software isn’t directly related to your offering, it isn’t directly related to your business. It may have been possible to get away with this a few years ago, but it’s a dangerous attitude these days. If you don’t take advantage of the opportunities tech provides, your competitors certainly will: you’ll waste more time, you’ll make less money, and you’ll stifle growth.

But if you’re willing to seize what’s in front of you, you’ll spend less and earn more, you’ll have more time to focus on what your company does best, and you’ll have every chance to build a clear lead over your business rivals.

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