In an increasingly competitive world, businesses of all sizes are under more pressure than ever to do more with less.
Faced with rising energy costs, a shortage of skilled experienced staff and the prospect of an economic downturn, companies are looking for ways to cut costs and improve productivity and are seeking more for their money when it comes to IT spending.
This quest for greater productivity is itself one the main drivers of software and hardware development, says Steve McManus, Asia Pacific general manager of software vendor FileMaker.
“All vendors are looking to ensure that their products have increased functionality,” he says, “but in a world where different businesses are forming partnerships and working closer together than ever before, vendors must also ensure that their products comply with set standards.”
Complying with standards has become more important with the increasing rate of change in business and in general, which is driven by a variety of factors including the demands of end-users and the community, and legislative changes.
IT products must not only meet the standards that businesses across the board must adhere to, but they must lend themselves to rapid application development to keep pace with these changes.
McManus explains, “Processing the average home loan involves several business procedures to be carried out by several organisations, such as the mortgage lender, real estate agent and the law firm. To achieve maximum productivity, not to mention customer service, these organisations need to be able to share information quickly and securely.”
Products that assist such ‘work groups’ and the sharing of data are key to achieving greater productivity, particularly when backed by an underlying technology that allows quick and easy development and tailoring to specific needs, says McManus.
Many New Zealand businesses can also save time and effort by integrating the different packages they use for different aspects of their business.
“What many people have done to date is basically computerise their manual databases without really using all the technological efficiencies that are there,” says McManus. “Where we see great productivity gains is in integrating some of these applications that people are using. For example, a typical invoice will have involved at the beginning of the process a quote, some communication and some logging of customer information. All that needs to be tracked, so when a person is talking to a customer they have all that information in one place.”
Not only does this streamline processes, but it ensures a more effective customer relationship management (CRM) system, which is key to generating sales, says HP small and medium business marketing manager, Warwick Grey.
“Most of our customers don’t have a detailed CRM strategy so they aren’t communicating their business value out to their clients,” he says.
There are also many manual tasks, such as faxing and sending SMS messages which, if computerised, can save hours of employee time.
While most businesses associate an effective IT security system with the prevention of data destruction, good security can also help to improve productivity by saving time, says Australia and New Zealand regional manager of GFI Software, Michael Early.
“Organisations are increasingly concerned about employee productivity and they don’t want employees to be wasting time going through endless amounts of spam or surfing non-work related web sites,” he says.
With an estimated 60 % of all emails being spam and the rise of web sites such as TradeMe, which require users to be online for a long time, managers have begun to count