Recently I was approached by Microsoft to speak on the tech panel at the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Annual Propel Your Business Conference. The NAWBO organization represents the issues and interests of more than 1.3 million women business owners in the state! It was one of the most empowering experiences of my career. I was surrounded by women who shared stories of hardship and success, but more than anything, the drive to persevere. It was an honor to participate in the event.
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to these women, all of them business owners and entrepreneurs. While on the tech panel, I spoke to them about technology tools that promote collaboration. Now, when I hear collaboration I think productivity. How can my company deliver a better customer experience at a competitive price and be more successful through increased efficiencies? My company, J4 Systems, delivers this through the use of enterprise technology tools designed by Microsoft for the Small to Medium business market. I recently read an article by an emerging luxury shoe manufacturer, the owner explained to the reporter how he and his partner grew up with computers, “we are not intimidated by technology, we embrace it”. I thought to myself, in order to become highly productive and successful in today’s market we must embrace technology and leverage collaboration tools to promote our success. That is today’s business ecosystem.
Now think about trends that impact the way we work. How many of you have a smart phone? An iPad? Both? Gardner predicts 1 Billion smartphones by 2016, with 350 million of these being used in the workforce. So, what about social networking….did you know 82 % of the world’s population engages in social networking? 82%! Your customers and my customers are all online, networking. What if you could access your email, your documents, your contacts and share tasks, action items and jointly work on a project anywhere, anytime, on any device? This is the modern office!
Communicating with customers and team members from your smartphone, your iPad, while in the office, at a client site, or my favorite – at the beach! With my first introduction to this technology my initial response was, how is that different from the way I communicate today? Now I realize it is COMPLETELY different! I am the worst end-user, I rebel against every change until I realize a process that would typically take 1-2 days to accomplish manually can be accomplished within minutes through collaboration/efficiency. Those are hard numbers to argue with.
You must be thinking, “How?”……I would be.
Well, let me first ask you, how do you access and edit your office documents on your PC, smartphone or tablet? How do you compile and visually interact with data, share insights and help improve business performance? Do you have access to the latest version of your documents whether working online or offline? But most people have very limited access to documents across devices. Its difficult, so generally, people keep multiple copies or email themself the dcocument. I save the document on my computer and use Microsoft Office 365, a sophisticated cloud based solution that provide me access to everything. What if I told you this solution provides an optimized experience across devices so you can access your office apps from anywhere? Meaning you can aways access the latest version of your documents from anywhere with your skydrive that syncs with sharepont content.
How many times have you been at a client site and thought, oh, I wish I had access to that file. What would it have meant to you….one less trip to your client? One less trip to close a deal? A better customer experience, faster more efficient service delivery? How many times do you hear a colleague say, “if only there were more hours in the day?” Streamlined collaboration gives you just that, more hours in the day. I prefer to be on the beach! What holds you back from this type of flexibility? Most people don’t think the cloud is secure, or it may be complex to migrate to the cloud. You may be concerned with reliability, losing control of your data or operations in the cloud. Microsoft backs their offering with a 99.9% financially backed Service Level Agreement (SLA). It’s compliant with world-class industry standards like ISO 27001, HIPAA- BAA, FISMA, and Data Processing Agreement.
So, let’s integrate social networking into our mobile office. Many business owners restrict social media because it reduces productivity. While I would agree, let’s make sure we are sticking with our objective and embracing social media. Today through the use of social networking we follow our colleagues, customers and clients yet we limit the access to social networks at work as it is a distraction. We share documents by email and large files using web applications. What is the value of keeping track of what is going on with your colleagues, documents and projects? How do you share large documents and files? What if you knew a colleague is available in real-time even when you’re not in the same location? New enterprise social networking features in SharePoint let you share what you are working on, ask questions and keep track of what your colleagues are doing. That means you can share documents more easily inside and outside your business including large files dynamically.
Okay, now real-world experience because that is what matters to me. So, I have two young sons, 10 and 16. Recently my youngest caught the horrible flu bug that was going around. Day 2 of having a 102 fever, he was at home with my nanny and my calendar was full of meetings to review reports and decisions need to be made. Most people would be thinking why can’t I be in both places at once? Why can’t I have it all? Well I can. I can run online meetings and share rich content or presentations in real-time. I can engage remote employees and maintain productivity. Now I can take it one step further, our phone system integrates with all of this! So, I have voice, video, instant messaging and web presentation ability.
How old is your telephony system? Are you using VOIP? Most people say they use a public instant messaging and web conferencing tool like Skype, but information security is a big concern when staying connected with remote workers using public instant messaging, email and phone. I use Microsoft Lync to host and participate in online meetings with web conferencing tools. It allows me to interact with people through HD video/audio, instant messaging and share my desktop and/or presentation. I can stay in contact with family, colleagues, customers and partners with cost effective enterprise grade instant messaging, real-time presence information, and voice and video.
What’s the business value of your modern office? For me it is quality of life. If there is one thing I have learned over the years is the importance of business and family life. That doesn’t mean I have to perform at a level that creates vulnerability with my competition. Through enabling and improving mobile productivity, I enable new ways of collaboration with social, voice and video. My customers are happier, and so are my employees. My costs are reduced by a reduction in video conferencing, telephony and travel. I now have simplified administration, and my critical data is protected.
So, how does technology increase collaboration and therefore productivity? Well, I have shared with you the tools I use to be highly productive, without compromising the customer’s experience. We all know that an increase in productivity/efficiency directly translates to our net profit. While Microsoft may not point it out, I will. All of these statements allow for more control over our operating expenses which means more money to invest in our company’s and in our pocket’s!