1.  Automate your work

Embrace technology! These days it’s not a luxury but a necessity in order to remain competitive. If there’s a monotonous but frequent task or process to be done, chances are, there’s an app for that! A quick win for all businesses is email automation and invoice management.

2. Consider your communication channels

Instant messaging can help your team exchange information quickly and efficiently without clogging inboxes. When only a face to face meeting will do, save time and money and support a strategic move to remote working and outsourcing by making use of video call apps like Skype.

3. Embrace the Cloud

Chances are you’re already using the cloud but are you taking full advantage? On top of improved reliability and security of data, cloud based storage and computing offers anytime/anywhere access to files and data and reduces many of the issues that manual document processing can cause such as version control, document loss and distribution bottlenecks. There’s hundreds of free and flexible cloud software available to support automation too.

4. Go ‘paper-light’

The 1970’s prediction of the ‘The paperless office’ has still not fully materialised. Reports (Gartner) suggests the average business is actually increasing use of paper by 25%. Signing documents is a primary reason businesses give for printing but e-signatures have been legal for a decade and apps like Docusign allow you to upload, deliver and sign documents quickly whilst retaining audit trails. Old habits die hard, so maybe a more realistic and effective strategy is to aim for a paper-light office.

5. Consolidate your software

Integrated software lets you do more with your data and all from one place. Consider for example your customer data. If you use a CRM system to track communication and sales activity with clients but a separate accounting system to manage the financial relationship with them, wouldn’t it be easier and quicker not to mention more effective if you could combine and access the information in an instant? 

6. Implement a Document Management System (DMS)

Do you struggle to find where you saved that file? It’s why some businesses still prefer to keep hard copies of frequently used or important documents in folders, close at hand. Creating a system for electronic files will help keep things organized in the future. Templates, style sheets, file name structure, folder organisation, archival procedures, and security guidelines are integral components of an efficient office.

7. Map your processes

Do you think you have clearly defined processes? Are you and your employees fully aware of these processes? Are they being implemented consistently? Mapping your processes can help to clarify and standardize what needs to be done, when, by whom and how. What you might think is a simple process may actually reveal complexities, bottlenecks, inconsistencies and inefficiencies for improvement. It also offers an effective ground up approach to identifying which technologies would best support your business.

8. Encourage remote working

With productivity a strategic focus for businesses today and remote working reported to contribute to an increase of 13%, it’s easy to understand why Stanford University predict that 60% of office employees will regularly work from home by 2022.  With cloud IT facilitating reliable and secure access and collaboration of files from anywhere, anytime, is there really any justification today not to have a more mobile workforce?

9. Employ the right expertise

Hiring flexible ‘generalists’ to take on multiple roles in the back office may seem like a great cost benefit but it could actually prove to be a false economy.

Diluting focus and over-stretching the team can lead to errors, a drop in productivity and an impact on your bottom line. As business evolves, your team may be happy to learn new skills but at what sacrifice? The time and money to invest in training?  The effective delivery of their primary roles? Accessing the right expertise from the start can give you the confidence that you’re receiving the best and most up to date knowledge and skills to achieve immediate and effective results for your business and give you the time to focus on the growth of your business rather than the running of it.

10. Outsource support

Outsourcing offers a strategic and agile solution for streamlined operations. It strips away some restrictions and costs of permanent resource and opens up a new flexible, informal, collaborative and responsive way of working. It’s beneficial for accessing the right expertise, for providing additional support when business is affected by cyclical or seasonal demands or if you simply don’t have the space for permanent in house resource.

Original content written by SmartPA Partner, Jo Brooks.