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Carol Conway

In a constrained economy where profits are scarce and credit is limited, everyone is looking for innovative ways to be more competitive. Smart companies are implementing process based technology solutions to create business environments that are lean and efficient. So what do I mean by process based technology? These are strategic IT decisions that impact the way a company does business. Of course there are plenty of tactical ways to improve the way you work, but the real gems are those strategic technology ideas that positively change the way your business operates.

I am frequently asked what technology solutions I recommend to small business owners in our community. That is a tough question to answer because not every IT solution is ideal for every business. It is a big responsibility to research best practices and recommend solutions that are a perfect fit for your company. Obviously there’s a lot to choose from, however for this article I have selected three of my favorites.

Unified Communications

Unified Communications (UC) refers to a trend in business to simplify and integrate all forms of communication. This typically includes phone, email, IM, voice mail and fax, allowing an individual to send or receive a message on one medium and be received on another. As an example, having the ability to receive a voice mail and retrieve it in your email inbox. UC unifies all forms of communications into a common user experience. That means fewer devices, more timely communication and a consistently easy way to get your work done. Unified Communications streamlines workflow and greatly improves efficiency. Many of my clients have been implementing UC solutions and they are amazed at the increase in productivity. It really does work! The most popular vendors of UC platforms are Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and Nortel.

Software as a Service

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a model of software deployment where applications are licensed and used on a demand basis via the internet. Basically companies “rent” only the software they need and access it via a web interface. This eliminates costly hardware purchases to support the software and minimizes upgrade and maintenance costs. SaaS has some drawbacks and may not be well suited for all applications. However it is flexible, quick to roll out and can be blended with traditional client server based environments. Many small businesses are using SaaS for special applications such as web hosted email, spam filtering and online backup. There are thousands of SaaS providers and almost every software development company has (or will have) an SaaS offering. My experience with SaaS so far has been very positive and I am encouraged by the possibilities it holds in the future.

Document Management

Document Management is the consolidation and unification of company data into a homogeneous electronic format. Most companies have data scattered throughout the organization in a multitude of places and spaces. By synthesizing data sources into a common electronic format, businesses are able to save time, space, paper and greatly improve internal efficiency. Frequently a by product of a good document management system is improved employee morale and a higher level of customer satisfaction. Wait times are reduced because access to information can literally go from days to minutes. All business can benefit from better organization and document management solutions can play a critical role in getting you there. Health care and insurance organizations have blazed the trail in this arena but other commercial businesses also see substantial ROI by doing so. The key players in this field are e-Copy, HP, Laserfiche, Oki Data and Xerox.

Unified Communications, Software as a Service and Document Management are smart strategic IT decisions. However these solutions take courage, patience and detailed planning. So before you launch wholesale changes in your organization ask yourself this question….are you really ready to change? Most process based IT decisions require changes in patterns, work habits and in many cases the company culture. Implementing the new technology is the easy part, committing to changing the way you work is not. Big ideas take guts. I hope you have the stomach for it!

Carol Conway is  President, CRS Technology
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