As we begin the new year, many businesses—and consumers for that matter—are looking at 2023 and beyond with bated breath. Will a deeper recession materialize? Will supply chain disruption continue or subside with lower demand? Is it the right time to hire or is a hiring freeze appropriate for keeping costs lower in uncertain times?
From HP to Amazon to Meta, we have already seen large companies begin layoffs in response to lackluster earnings. That said, small U.S. companies that struggled to hire employees post-COVID may be reluctant to implement layoffs at this point; however, for most small companies, payroll is the single largest expense on the income statement.
Business Workflow | Cutting Costs in 2023
What can companies do to lower expenses in the short term while retaining talent?
Workflow optimization can mean many things, but a good working definition for our purposes is: The integration of technology with the result of making business processes more efficient.
At the end of the day, why would a company incur additional expense from business technology integration if doing so did not create a substantial offsetting efficiency? Ideally, they would not. All technology deployed by a business should reduce the labor burden of manual processes such that the company’s most expensive and critical resources, its employees, can be repurposed for higher order tasks. Those tasks should enable the company to scale, creating more revenue and profit.
So, what types of workflow optimizing business technology can be deployed to generate efficiencies for a company?
By no means, is this a comprehensive list, but here are few broad categories that are often overlooked by companies seeking cost-cutting, revenue generating efficiencies:
- Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS)
Most business leaders think “phones” when they hear unified communications (UCaaS), but phones are just one piece of the way we communicate in 2023. Think about all the ways modern companies communicate internally within the company and externally to customers and prospects. Successful companies use typical office phones (hopefully, Voice Over IP [VOIP] and not analog), text, messaging platforms like Slack and Teams, video and audio conferencing like Teams, Zoom, and WebEx, email, personal cell phones, social media, company websites, marketing tools like Constant Contact and Mailchimp. Companies even use their customer relationship management (CRM) tool like Salesforce and HubSpot as well as call center applications to communicate.
A lot of companies are using multiple redundant platforms to accomplish the same thing. For example, many businesses are using Teams and Zoom for video conferencing interchangeably, and employees are using a mix of cell phones and office phones to accomplish the same tasks. Think of how many times a text message takes the place of email and vice versa. It is safe to say that most companies are using redundant applications to accomplish the same tasks.
How does this affect communication across the organization?
Valuable paper trails are lost or difficult to recover, voicemails are left to die in voicemail oblivion. Multiple applications need to be downloaded and maintained on workstations, providing much needed busy work for overtasked information technology (IT) departments. Transferring calls becomes impossible. Bandwidth and data storage become ticking time bombs. Invaluable data becomes lost or unusable. Finally, redundant applications come with redundant fees that show up in the expense line of the company income statement.
UCaaS platforms like Crexendo can help businesses consolidate all communications tools under one system—eliminating redundancy, simplifying data storage and collection, allowing for better monitoring of employee activity, and providing overall ease to internal and external business communications.
- Document Management
Like UCaaS, document management platforms can promote workflow optimization by helping to consolidate redundant systems that reduce business efficiency. Although most companies feel the pain of storing documents in multiple systems, few make a commitment to meaningful change in this area.
Many companies have a situation in which documents are stored in email platforms like Outlook and Gmail. Simultaneously, they may have a server with a file share on it, or companies that have committed to cloud-based file storage systems could be using Box, Dropbox, Drive, and OneDrive.
Many times, they will be using multiple cloud and on-premise solutions concurrently. For sharing purposes, companies will often use a platform like Teams as well. Then, on the transactional front, companies will use an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or their CRM to store additional documents. Increasingly, companies are receiving documents via text which may never meet a formal repository, and still some are storing documents on their multi-function printer (MFP) hard drive.
Multiple document storage platform environments result in inconsistent naming conventions, difficult document recovery, the inability to deploy optical character recognition (OCR) for searching, document retention issues, loss of data due to theft or employee negligence, security concerns, version control issues, and many additional inefficiencies. Furthermore, these systems cost money and time to license and maintain.
Document management systems can help with workflow optimization across the organization. Think about how many times employees end up looking for documents in multiple systems, searching by a nonstandard document name only to find out that they have a version that is 3 versions out of date! Now, think about how much time could be saved if every document was in one central repository with a name enforced by the system and searchable by the content of the document, perhaps an invoice number. Imagine if that document was listed with all past versions of that document. How much time would that save across the organization?
Now, imagine the cost and time savings if licenses and maintenance on multiple systems could be eliminated. For nearly all companies, a robust and affordable document management system could create workflow efficiencies while lowering hard costs to the business.
- Printer Fleet Management Systems
Ask any IT professional how much they love managing their company’s printer fleet. It’s generally not going to be their favorite task on the list of IT priorities. Between print drivers, meter collection, monitoring toner levels, and dealing with the host of help desk calls that arise from printer issues, IT departments typically struggle with managing the workload of a large printer fleet.
IT departments often become bogged down with the daily tasks related to printer fleet management; however, printer fleet management tools can help centralize management and lower costs within the department. This can enable IT departments to spend more time on the business objectives that enable revenue generation activities to take place.
Printer fleet management tools like PrinterLogic and PaperCut can serve the IT department in many ways. For example, such tools can eliminate costly print servers and allow for centralized driver and print queue management. These tools can centralize meter collection and function as cost accounting platforms for billing back clients for whom the company produces prints.
The IT department can limit costly and unnecessary color pages that remain the bulk of a printer’s expense during its lifecycle. Updates to printer drivers can be deployed quickly through centralized hubs. Hard and soft rules can be created to force end users to make responsible use of printer resources like duplex (double-sided) printing. These types of tools are cost effective, easy to deploy, stable, and can dramatically enhance workflows throughout the business.
In conclusion, as we begin 2023 on uncertain economic terms, there are a lot of ways businesses can chip into expenses through workflow optimization. Through workflow optimization businesses can use technology to enable their current staff in their day-to-day tasks. From IT to finance to sales, empowering employees to do their jobs more efficiently can lower the hard costs associated with redundant systems while also lowering the softs costs associated with inefficient processes. From a sales perspective, more efficient employees can be repurposed to conduct the revenue generating tasks that grow the top line.
Good luck and Happy New Year as we kick off 2023.