Current world events, like the coronavirus pandemic, have been straining the resources of companies around the globe. Businesses need to be able to maximize their resources and reduce costs now, more than ever, in order to survive the current economic climate. A robust IT infrastructure can help make a business more efficient.
Different aspects of a business can be measured for efficiency. Let us look at three examples that Information Technology (IT) might be able to improve upon:
- Business operations – for businesses that create products or render services, efficiency can be derived from how well a business converts the cost of raw materials and/or labor to actual goods that can be sold as well as services that can be rendered to customers for profit;
- Business processes – efficiency can be measured by determining how much time and effort a specific process requires in order to be completed; and
- Employee output – efficiency can be measured by comparing how much work is done by employees given a specific amount of time.
Efficiency through software applications or tools
Having the right software and tools can make business processes quicker and increase the output of the employees who use these applications or tools. It also leads to a happier, more engaged workforce. According to a study by Ultimate Software, 92 percent of employees say that having applications and tools that allow them to do their job efficiently, positively affects their happiness with the workplace.
A good example of software that allows employees to work more efficiently is Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. A good CRM tool will be able to manage all of a company’s relationships and interactions with customers in a single place. It is used for sales management and customer contact management among other things.
Another example is Issue/Work Tracking software. A work tracker, as its name suggests, is used to keep track and manage the process and production of work. It generally keeps track of things like who is assigned to which task, what the status of the task is, and any other information that is related to the task.
Efficiency through automation
Automation can reduce costs, increase output, and decrease errors. This leads to increased efficiency when measured either from an operations, processes, or employee output perspective. According to the management consulting firm McKinsey, an estimated 45 percent of paid work done by employees can be automated by adapting existing technologies.
Automation can be complex and massive in scale, like using Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA leverages machine learning and artificial intelligence to gather and analyze data that it uses to automate various kinds of processes. But automation can also be simple and small-scale, like using Python or PHP scripts. Scripts can automate repetitive data-encoding tasks like crawling through thousands of rows of various MS Excel documents to retrieve necessary data. Research by Unit4, an enterprise system for a services organization, estimates that employees spend 69 days per year on repetitive administration tasks, which amounts to $ 5 trillion in lost productivity, globally. Automating repetitive tasks allows these tasks to be completed quicker and with fewer errors. It also allows employees to focus on more complex and critical aspects of their job.
Efficiency through up-to-date technology
Old and unmaintained IT infrastructure will have a negative impact on business efficiency. Out of date computer hardware won’t keep up with software tools and applications that demand more and more computer resources. These machines will eventually slow to a crawl. Furthermore, computer and networking hardware, like all machines, will break down eventually. Supplying a business with up to date hardware resources will help workers do their jobs faster. Ensuring that these resources are properly cared for and maintained will secure business operations reliability.
A business’ internet access is a significant part of daily operations. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) regularly increase download and upload speeds of their internet packages. A faster internet connection is always better for productivity and efficiency.
The ability to work remotely is critical for business operations to be reliable, especially now amidst an ongoing global pandemic. IT infrastructure that allows employees to work from home, like VPNs and mobile applications, will make sure that business operations are protected from disruptions like mandatory community lockdowns due to the coronavirus.
Let us take a hypothetical OEM company that produces and sells Wi-Fi chips used for mobile phones as an example of how IT helps with efficiency by using software tools, automation, and up-to-date technology.
Let us say that one of their customers, a mobile phone maker, contacts the company with a complaint that the Wi-Fi chips they bought were not working properly in certain situations. They made a complaint through the company’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. A customer representative of the company was able to handle the complaint because although the company office was in lockdown due to COVID-19, the infrastructure was in place to allow remote work.
The employee reviews the complaint and approves the customer ticket in the CRM tool. Since the company automated its customer support process, a corresponding issue in the company’s Work Tracker software is created for the engineering team. An email and a message are also sent to the engineering manager, notifying them of the new issue. The engineering manager receives all this information on their phone. They suspect that it is a firmware problem and assigns the issue to an engineer on their team. The firmware engineer, who is also working remotely, eventually resolves the problem and updates the ticket in the Work Tracker, adding a resolution status that the problem should be fixed in the next firmware release. Via automation, the CRM customer ticket is updated to reflect this resolution, notifying the customer that the issue will be resolved once they receive the next firmware package.
Leveraging IT infrastructure can provide significant increases to business efficiency. To summarize:
- Up-to-date IT infrastructure can ensure the overall speed and reliability of business operations;
- Automation can increase operational and employee efficiency by lowering costs, decreasing errors, and increasing output; and
- Software tools/applications can decrease the time and effort it takes to complete business processes.
Now that business resilience is more needed than ever, it is time to take a good second look at the IT infrastructure that you just might need to make your company stronger during this pandemic.