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Make your business more efficient with new technology

Whether it’s hardware or software, a whole range of affordable technology can help you run your small business more efficiently, often from anywhere and on the go. We take a look at a few of them.

A survey commissioned by Intuit Inc., provider of small business financial management solutions, reveals that whilst small business owners work for themselves in order to utilise their skills and enjoy their passion, they spend more than a third of their work lives on administrative tasks. The survey undertaken by Galaxy Research, of over 750 Australian small business owners, also revealed that businesses that employ staff require owners to spend at least 40 percent of their time on administrative tasks.

Working remotely and on the go

Nora Tucker, product manager for Intuit Australia, said: “It’s tedious tasks such as recording transactions, BAS, tax and GST reporting that can really take the fun out of owning your own business.” She believes software that can be accessed remotely is vital in allowing business owners to reclaim their lives and cloud computing is creating greater opportunities for small business owners to operate their business anywhere, anytime. The survey also revealed that more than three quarters of Australian small business owners would find it useful to be able to access files remotely, with 86 percent of Gen Y business owners acknowledging the advantages.

“These figures tell us that Australian businesses want to be able to work on-the-go. People are recognising the value of products such as QuickBooks Online and this is allowing them to get the administrative tasks efficiently, and get back to the business of what they love faster.”

Hardware helpers

When it comes to hardware, Paul Davies, who has a life insurance business, says the best efficiency tool he has in terms of technology is the LiveScribe Smart Pen. “In my business, where note-taking is prolific, it’s the best tool I have access to. Everything I write is recorded by the pen, then uploaded onto my computer as a PDF file. I can then attach this to my CRM with audio syncing with the writing. It’s something that anyone dealing with clients on a daily basis needs to consider.” Find out more at www.livescribe.com/en-au.

Tablets are becoming a more and more frequent sight in small business boardrooms and meetings. Accessories like the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover almost turn your lightweight tablet into a laptop. This one both protects and looks great and with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard and extensive battery life, you can type easily and freely.

The Ultrathin attaches easily to your iPad with a magnetic clip, and the stand provides an optimal viewing experience. It also features an instant On/Off feature which automatically wakes your iPad when you open the cover and puts it to sleep when you close it. The Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is available in a choice of black or white.

Getting rid of paper

Shoeboxed Australia is a small business solution to help eliminate paper clutter and assist in the accounting process. Small and medium sized businesses mail or email invoices, receipts and business cards to Shoeboxed’s offices where they scan and digitise the data into extractable information. This can then be exported into accounting platforms and other programs to assist with bookkeeping.

Shoeboxed drives efficiencies by saving you the time and effort of manual data entry using its OCR technology which is human-verified for accuracy. It gives customers a search function within their account to eliminate the effort of sorting and sifting through years of receipts and documents, making bookkeeping and auditing easier for the business and their accountant.

Online accounting

MYOB LiveAccounts provides easy online accounting for less than $1 a day so it’s perfect for smaller businesses with simple accounting needs. It can help you be more productive by managing your business from anywhere you can access the internet – away from the office, interstate or from home, on a Mac or PC.  You can raise invoices, track expenses, pay staff and manage your GST, all online.

LiveAccounts is always up-to-date so you can clearly see how your business is going at any time. You can see for example business bank balances, expenses, estimate of GST you owe, payroll etc. You can also spend less time on data entry by linking your business bank accounts or credit cards to LiveAccounts so all your business transactions are automatically transferred for you. This service claims to be the broadest of any cloud accounting provider, working with over 100 banks and financial institutions in Australia and New Zealand.

Bring your own productivity

Small business owners are witnessing an increase in employee productivity with the increasing popularity of BYOD: bring your own device. The growth of Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity in general has meant that customers often have multiple devices that work on different platforms. Traditional office workers may now choose to work from the home or on the road and have different communication tools, including desk phones, mobile phones, tablets and PCs, at hand.

A study of 500 Australian office workers commissioned by Jabra found that 60 percent of employees claim to seldom or never turn off communications devices and applications, for both personal and business use, during work hours and to juggle communications, the average person uses more than five different devices or applications. Historically the ‘always connected’ workplace has been viewed unfavourably, however, as the study shows, in recent times employees are largely comfortable working in this kind of environment and indeed more productive.

Traditionally, only call centre operators required headsets; however, considering the amount of time an average office worker multi-tasks while on the telephone or smartphone, the need for wireless headsets is increasing. Wireless headsets provide the user with a safer and more comfortable working day with less pain and strain from cradling a handset. Small business owners are already making headway in ensuring efficiency and productivity in their workplace with over 90 percent of Australian organisations implementing unified communications solutions, replacing desk phones with headsets (Jabra/Frost & Sullivan).

VoIP solutions

With one of the world’s highest broadband penetration rates, and the National Broadband Network being rolled out, Australian businesses are increasingly looking for virtual or hosted phone alternatives that deliver PBX-style features over the cloud. According to a recent ACMA survey, 21 percent of Australian SMEs currently use a VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) service, with many more aware of VoIP and considering moving to a VoIP system in the future; one that delivers simplicity, flexibility, advanced features and importantly, affordability.

With a service like MyNetFone’s Virtual PBX, small businesses can use an online phone service that delivers the features and capabilities of a traditional PBX telephone system without the need to buy or maintain expensive PBX equipment. With the flexibility to accommodate from two-to-40+ lines, virtual PBX has been designed to simplify operations and reduce operating costs while improving productivity with advanced phone features such as call forwarding, voicemail to email, hunt groups, time of day routing and more.

As more small businesses opt for virtual offices, MyNetFone Virtual PBX phone system also provides a cost effective and feature-rich solution for telecommuting, giving remote employees the same seamless connection to the main business phone system just as if they were on premises.

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Jen Bishop

Jen Bishop

Jen was the publisher at Loyalty Media and editor of Dynamic Business, Australia's largest circulating small business magazine, from 2008 until 2012. She is now a full-time blogger at The Interiors Addict.

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