No matter the size of your business, there are two things I guarantee you wish you had more of: time and money. Unfortunately, regardless of how much you wish for them, neither one will magically appear like a CGI Will Smith from an oil lamp.
Instead, you’ve got to put in a little extra effort. Improving your time management skills is a good place to start. You could also rely on the following five technologies.
Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Despite emerging in 1952, AI has really gained traction over the past couple of years. The main reason is that AI has completely changed the business world for the better.
Take marketing as an example. AI can gather and analyze data to generate more personalized content for your audience. AI-powered chatbots can handle customer service inquiries during off-hours or steer website visitors to the information they’re searching for.
Additionally, machine learning, an offshoot of AI, can make predictions and suggestions on how to improve processes or prevent problems. For instance, you could receive a notification to replenish your inventory before you sell out of a specific product. It could also review past meetings and then recommend when and where the next meeting should take place. Machine learning could also suggest which people to invite and which topics to include in your agenda.
AI and machine learning can, of course, also automate tedious and time-consuming tasks. For example, a tool like a Calendar cannot only make smart meeting suggestions, but it can also automatically set up recurring events so you no longer have to spend time manually adding them to your schedule and sending out invites.
Wait a minute — isn’t automation the same thing as AI? It’s understandable to connect those dots. After all, both are technologies that streamline tasks and workflows. In some cases, they can even completely take over certain responsibilities.
But the key difference is that automation only handles fixed repetitive tasks. AI, on the other hand, analyzes past data to make future predictions. When an automation tool does its job, that’s it. For example, if you use an accounting tool like Xero, it will issue invoices, schedule payments, and handle payroll. Though it provides insights, it won’t make smart suggestions on how to improve your accounting.
Your business is probably already using automation. Accounting is one example; you’re probably also using tools like ActiveCampaign to automate your email and marketing efforts through segmentation, as well as canned responses, like welcoming new subscribers. Hootsuite and its brethren let you schedule social media content in advance, publishing it for you.
The point is that automation is all around us. If you haven’t jumped on board yet, it’s time you do. If you’re not convinced, consider that 53% of employees report that automation saves them two work hours per day. Also, business leaders claim that automation frees up around three work hours daily.
Scheduling and Conferencing Tools
Scheduling technologies are meant to improve the meetings that take place within your organization. That may not seem like a priority, but meetings are often listed as the leading time waster at the office. In fact, on average, people spend more than five hours in meetings every week — that total can range up to 12 for managers. People also spend more than four hours preparing for meetings.
Thanks to scheduling and conferencing tools, meetings can become more productive and less time-consuming. Scheduling tools eliminate back-and-forth email chains when planning an event. Simply share your calendar through email or embed it on your site; participants can then choose the open slot that works best for them. Some tools, like Doodle, give your team the chance to vote on the best date and time for a meeting.
What’s more, these platforms can also reserve conference rooms and allow you to attach relevant information, like meeting agendas or data to be discussed. They can also enable virtual meetings so traveling or co-locating is no longer an issue.
Project Management Systems
Project management systems, such as Basecamp or Trello, have become essential tools for companies. After all, they allow you to assign tasks to specific employees, as well as track and monitor everyone’s progress over the duration of a project. You and your team can also share documents, post updates, and ask questions in one convenient location.
Also, because these systems are in the cloud, they can be accessed from anywhere. That’s clutch when you have remote employees — everyone can stay on the same page, no matter where they’re currently working.
According to the Ponemon Institute, companies, on average, experience 130 successful cyber attacks annually. These attacks cost around $12 million and can also harm your company’s reputation — just think how furious customers would be if their personal information had been stolen due to a weak or nonexistent firewall. Depending on the severity of the attack, there may also be legal issues, like regulatory sanctions.
To prevent this from happening, you need to invest in defending your business from potential cyber attacks. While training your team to understand security basics — like not opening up fishy emails — is a start, you also should also use technology from companies like Cisco, Symantec, and CrowdStrike. Even BlackBerry has gotten in on the game by providing secure end-to-end mobility.
When it comes to time-saving technologies your company could maximize, there’s no shortage of options. But to make sure your team isn’t overwhelmed, think about where you’re wasting the largest amount of time and money. From there, you can search for tools that will empower you and your team to focus on the bigger picture.