Improving pro/ductivity is a constant challenge for businesses of all sizes. With the growing demand for advanced integration and security capabilities to go along with everyday application use, small businesses are especially reliant on having efficient and comprehensive desktop tools to help them stay ahead of the game.
Jason Brommet, senior product manager for Microsoft Office, Microsoft Canada, notes, "Our studies have shown that SMBs have to deal with a lot of the same pains as larger organizations. That is, resource constraints - both human and financial. They need tools that can help them enhance the productivity of their workers and make the most out of their technology investments."
According to an SMB survey by Microsoft, more than 60% of respondents saw technology as an enabler to increasing profits and growing their customer base. A similar percentage said they relied on technology to track vital information, such as contact and sales data.
One area to a business can gain considerably more efficiencies is in business applications. Most users overlook many of the features in their business software. However, those unused features may be the key to increasing the productivity and efficiency of your business. Upgrading your business software, along with the proper training, can deliver considerable time and cost savings.??
Some areas where maximizing business software can deliver results include:
* Improving collaboration - Emails, calendars and scheduling are all vital tools for today's worker. With advanced integration capabilities, it's faster and easier for users to schedule/change appointments, access contact information, review/transfer documents securely, and communicate with their peers and customers. Combine those capabilities with mobile access and the productivity gains grow exponentially.
* Reducing time spent on searches - The better the search capabilities of your operating system and software the greater the time savings for your staff in the office and on the road. For search-intensive applications especially, such as extensive graphics archives, inventory or contact information, native search capabilities can deliver noticeable results right out of the gate.
* Minimizing outsourcing requirements - When it comes to presentations and marketing materials, many SMBs often find themselves outsourcing a good portion of the creative functions. Features such as graphics libraries, customizable templates and drag and drop capabilities can help users produce their own professional looking presentations and materials, while ensuring a consistent look and feel to all materials.
When Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 was launched last November of last year, Brommet says it offered a several features that have been specifically designed to address the demands of the SMB market. "A number of key enhancements have been added to help people use the tools at hand. It offers a very pragmatic approach to allow users to focus on key tasks and work much more quickly and easily."
Business Contact Manager in Outlook for example, lets users integrate a number of functions - such as scheduling, calendaring and tasks - for easier management. They can bring all their contact and customer information into one place to manage sales leads, opportunities and interaction points.
Native search and online help capabilities deliver faster results, saving time and resources; while features such as Live Preview allow users to view changes prior to including them in documents. Added creative libraries and formatting components also help users create and publish a wide range of professional looking marketing publications for print, e-mail and the Web that include their own brand elements, including logo, colors, fonts and business information.
Businesses finding new-found efficiency
For Gemma Moore, owner of Kincardine, Ontario-based MG Moore Designs, moving to the Microsoft Office 2007 system is playing an important part in helping her growing company meet project deadlines and manage its client base - without putting a burden its in-house resources.
"For a small business in this industry, a desktop solution that is easy to use, enables fast access to the right information and helps manage customer contact information is a must," says Moore. . With a high number of graphics files and other data residing on its system, the company also needed a tool that would help it reduce the amount of time spent searching for information.
With Business Contact Manager, she says the company is able to organize and manage all of its customer contacts, prospects and lead information in one place. It can also create, personalize and track direct marketing campaigns and centralize project-related information. "The biggest advantage is the simplification of everyday IT tasks and the ability to accomplish more with the resources we have."
Recycling and composer container manufacturer Busch Systems in Barrie has found new ways to improve collaboration by upgrading its business software. "We don't have the cycles to waste because of computer downtime or barriers to collaboration," says Operations manager Marty Pepper. "It is critically important for us to provide our people with the right tools to get their work done efficiently and effectively,"
With many employees spending a significant amount of time on the road, the company needed to improve their ability to collaborate and work on documents. With faster search capabilities and a more secure desktop environment, employees can now complete their tasks quickly and easily -from formatting spreadsheets to sharing presentations - while in the field. "The ease with which they can now accomplish this means time savings that can add up to hours," says Pepper