As 2016 draws to a close, most business owners are thinking about how to enhance the way they will work in the year ahead. Whether it’s taking on new challenges, increasing productivity or finding that potentially elusive work/life balance, a new year can mean a new way of doing work. Technology can help keep you more accountable, productive and eliminate roadblocks to getting it all done. As most people make New Year’s resolutions, here’s the ultimate companion guide to help business owners be more productive and reach their goals in 2017.
Goal: Formalizing or Revisiting Your Strategic Plan
Whether you’re launching a new product or revenue stream in the business or formalizing your operations, it’s critical to have a business plan. Yet a business plan isn’t a static one-time document that is created and then executed when you start your business or expand an existing one. It’s a living, breathing document that most companies revisit at least quarterly and update on an annual basis. Updating your business plan is a smart strategy for growth. Tools like LivePlan and Business Plan Pro are two options. LivePlan has collaborative features and lets business owners create beautiful plans geared toward helping them obtain funding. Business Plan Pro can be accessed from any device, and offers industry-specific examples, video advice and templates.
Goal: More Effective Financial Planning and Forecasting
For business owners, the ability to forecast cash flow and revenue is critical. The right tools can help you keep on top of the latest information, project where you should be at a given point in the year, and help determine which investments are feasible in the year ahead. Financial tools like Freshbooks and Quickbooks are two that – along with being easy to use – offer a lot of features in one solution. Freshbooks allows users to invoice clients, reconcile the books, and track their time in a mobile and web-based console. Quickbooks provides an end-to-end financial management solution for businesses with more complex needs that benefit from a high degree of customization.
Goal: Planning for Personal Growth
Another area of investment for personal productivity is closing your own knowledge gaps. Yet the reality for many business owners is that they need flexible solutions that support just-in-time learning. It’s no longer necessary to matriculate to a university to expand your knowledge. On-demand learning platforms like Udemy and Coursera let you quickly upgrade your programming knowledge, master the latest aspects of marketing, or put together and execute a personalized professional development plan with both budget and flexibility in mind. Through resources like Lynda.com, your team can upgrade their knowledge easily and affordably by learning how to use specific software, improve business communication, or enhance programming skills.
Goal: Fast Track Collaboration
In the book Smarter, Better, Faster: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, author and New York Times reporter Charles Duhigg explores what makes powerful teams. After evaluating the success of teams at Google, he shares one conclusion: successful teams can fast track collaboration by creating environments where everyone contributes, shares ideas and is supportive of their colleagues. Technology can help. Thinking ahead to 2017 may include plans to fast track collaboration. When teams come together, they’re able to quickly iterate on the best ideas and move projects along faster.
When you’re focused on collaboration, it’s time to think about using different applications to make things go smoothly. If you have multiple offices, video conferencing and instant messaging that allows instant file sharing is a quick answer to facilitate discussions between multiple employees. If you’re in a smaller office, using the Microsoft® Office 365 suite allows for multiple employees to work on the same document at once. This limits time wasted working on multiple versions of the same document. A solution like Basecamp can also help organize complicated and long-term projects so that all files and communication are in one place. And if anyone leaves your company, their project files won’t be lost.
Goal: Improving Efficiency with Automation and Other Technology Trends
McKinsey famously found that the right technology can increase worker productivity by 20 to 25%. In fact, this translates to freeing up two or three hours per day. Clearly, each small improvement that can be incorporated into your workflow reduces wasted time. Even twelve minutes reclaimed per day adds up to an hour per week or fifty hours per year of more productive time. Business leaders are embracing tools such as dictation software like Dragon Naturally Speaking to speed up composing emails, and productivity software like Microsoft® Office 365 that lets them work from anywhere. Anywhere access lets users make the most of small gaps of time in their schedule, and increases the speed they can respond to requests when they arise. Creating the technology infrastructure for maximum productivity is a critical part of hitting your 2017 goals.
Goal: Faster Internet to Achieve Your Goals
An Internet connection seems like a basic business utility, however having a fast and symmetrical connection through fiber can improve business efficiencies. Most people know they want a fast Internet connection, but symmetrical speeds can actually be equally beneficial for businesses. Symmetrical speeds allow you to upload files just as fast as you download them. Traditional connections focus on fast download speeds, but if your business needs to send or upload larger files, a fast upload speed will keep your business moving so small tasks can be accomplished quickly. And if your business uses cloud applications or has Hosted VoIP, faster and more reliable connections can make those tools work more efficiently, since a slow connection can cause interruptions in service.
Whether your personal productivity goals focus on finding a way to learn in the midst of a busy schedule or reclaim precious minutes by using better technology, it’s possible to make it happen with the latest software. Plan ahead for what you want to achieve and then invest in the technological tools and services that can help make your vision a reality in 2017.