These days, almost everyone is cutting back to compensate for the loss of revenue brought about by the economy. Projects are delayed indefinitely, vendors are squeezed, and employees are asked to do more with less. Add to this the speculation of a double dip recession, and businesses of all sizes are hunkering down to cut back even more with “no increased expenses” mandates.
After past downturns, we learned that companies can go from good to great if they use the time wisely to invest in the future. Previously, this often required risky capital expenditures and employees taking time away from bringing in revenue and servicing customers.
Today, things are different. With the mass availability of “as a service” technologies, it is much easier and safer for companies to use technology to save money, become more productive, and build a more competitive future.
“As a service” technologies now apply to various areas, such as customer relationship management (CRM), cloud computing, hosted applications, and communications-as-a-service (CaaS). This means you can put in a new sales and marketing system to drive revenue or tighten communications with your customers. You can also upgrade your aging phone system, computer hardware, and software without visiting your leasing company, or having your office staff take their eyes off the revenue target to implement timely internal projects.
Here are a few “as a service” technologies that could benefit you now and in the future.
There are various hosted applications available that enable you to provide specific functions such as e-mail, office applications (Microsoft, GoogleApps, etc.), document management, data back-up, CRM, accounting and other industry specific applications for a fraction of the price. Hosted apps work within the browser, with no hardware or software to maintain.
They often provide more effective sales and other customer-facing tools, better data storage, up-to-date e-mail system with collaboration, better scheduling and time management, and more. Plus, you eliminate the maintenance costs (again, both internal and external) associated with supporting outdated hardware, software, and applications. This also gives you the option to redirect your existing hardware to other needed areas.
Communications-as-a-service (CaaS) utilizes Internet bandwidth to deliver new telephone system features and functionality without actually buying a new system. CaaS provides mobility-enhancing features that route calls numerous ways for increased customer support; Unified Communications functionality that delivers voicemails to your e-mail and integrates your CRM software and phone system; as well as easy and effective telecommuting, workforce distribution, and business continuity/disaster recovery features.
CaaS also yields significant cost savings by removing existing telephone lines, eliminating local and long distance charges, and nullifying phone system maintenance.
Cloud computing and virtualization give you more computer processing power (at the server and increasingly, desktop level) and functionality without purchasing new hardware. Businesses save by not only reducing the need to buy new hardware, but also by lowering support costs, since the number of machines your IT staff (whether internal or external) has to maintain, support and back up are either reduced or eliminated. In larger environments, especially, this adds up to substantial savings.
When it comes to upgrading your technology systems, be open-minded and innovative. In some areas, cost savings might be obvious, while in others, a more detailed analysis might be required. Some technologies might simply save you money, whereas others will enable you to drive productivity and revenue, increasing your cash flow.
Though you might be tempted, don’t go straight to the “how much money does this save us?” question. An extra $100 to $200 a month might save 10 hours a week of someone’s time. Evaluate how staff time can be saved and also how doing things differently can result in a better competitive position for your company.
Let’s use your phone system as an example. Many business owners want all incoming phone calls handled by a receptionist because they feel this delivers a more personalized level of service. But that’s not necessarily the case. Many customers would prefer to be routed directly to someone and not be placed on hold — particularly if that person isn’t even in the office, but is instead on the road and still answering calls on their cell. Ask yourself which solution delivers the higher level of productivity and service, and how much money can be saved by refocusing the receptionist’s time to another function.
Lastly, when campaigning for an upgrade, don’t be surprised if you encounter the “that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. But remember, while it’s important to keep expenses down now, it is equally if not more important to make sure you are investing in your company’s future. Think about it.
Guy Fardone is the chief operating officer and general manager for Evolve IP, a communications-as-a-service (CaaS) provider that offers businesses a suite of services that includes managed telephony, hosted applications, managed networks, and security and compliance.