Eight technologies to increase profitability and productivity

Keeping track of the latest technology can be overwhelming, but businesses concerned about increasing profitability and productivity ignore them at their peril. Here are eight key trends that you don’t want to miss out on.

Cloud computing

Cloud computing is regularly pinpointed as one of the recent technology trends to have had a positive effect on business. In the last few years more and more companies have started taking advantage of the fact that they can essentially “outsource” their non-core technological needs – such as serving — to outside companies, and in the process improve efficiencies and bring down costs.

In terms of costs, companies using cloud services no longer have to fork out for the space needed to store servers and data, while the need for expensive hardware (and the consequent IT department investment) is also reduced. The reality for companies is likely to be what has been labelled a “hybrid reality”, using a combination of cloud services and on-site solutions.

The network of computers used in the cloud also enables a more efficient use of storage and bandwidth, expanding and contracting as needed, and thus providing a more seamless service from the end-user’s perspective.

One of the other key advantages of cloud computing is that employees don’t have to be at their desks to access applications and data – because the information is stored remotely, it can be retrieved from anywhere. It’s something we’re already familiar with in email terms – think Gmail, Hotmail and Dropbox, for example – but has wider application across a range of online functions. The online backup provided by cloud computing is also a huge advantage, providing a safety net for companies in the case of a loss of data.

Online document management

The growing trend of sharing and storing documents digitally has a number of plusses for companies. Not only can offices save on paper and physical space (say goodbye to those unattractive filing cabinets), online file collaboration to improve productivity and organisation.

How so? Well, online documents are stored in one place and are easily accessed and updated by all. It’s far quicker for a group of employees to share and view documents, and there’s no more time spent searching through those filing cabinets for the right piece of paper.

Workflows around documents can be effectively structured and changes can be tracked, while the progress points in development projects are easily accessible. This saves time and money, and makes staff and processes more efficient. What’s more, all this information can be accessed remotely – so you don’t have to be in the office to keep on top of projects.

There are numerous examples of applications that enable online document management. A recent article on GetApp.com listed 25 web-based applications to boost productivity, including Mavenlink (a cloud-based project management and collaboration suite) and AtTask (a project management app that helps give a full view of workplace activities, but of course there are many more to choose from. Google is also in on the action, offering free business applications that include email accounts, spam filtering and collaboration apps such as Google Docs and Google Video.

Lastly, it’s also safer to store documents online. If there’s a fire, nothing is damaged. But document software can also introduce multiple levels of security and make it more difficult for unauthorised persons to access sensitive information.

The rise of tablets

The increasing use of tablets has opened a new frontier for business. While these devices do not replace the desktop computer or mobile phone, instead falling somewhere in between these two devices, they offer users an exceptionally flexible way of consuming information.  In addition, reports from earlier this year suggest that sales of PCs are flagging, but that consumers are turning to other devices – tablets in particular.

As far as businesses are concerned, tablets offer a number of opportunities — not least the fact that their practicality and convenience makes them useful devices for professionals, from executives to doctors to journalists in the field. A recent article on the website physicianspractice.com, for example, reported that doctors were increasingly adopting tablets to carry out daily tasks such as emailing and scheduling. Industries that involve a lot of worker mobility – property sales and estate agents, for example – can particularly benefit from the portability of tablets.

The power of the tablet doesn’t just lie in its form, however. The device has also spawned a huge number of new and powerful applications that take advantage of its flexibility and unique functionality. A survey quoted in the same article above stated that members of the medical profession were increasingly their tablets to access medical apps, and the growth in applications serving other industries is just as prevalent.

Looking at it from a different perspective, companies that have developed company specific web applications to improve efficiencies and productivity now have a new opportunity to extend these to this new mobile platform.

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