There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned phone call, is there? Get on the horn, ring up a client, and shoot the breeze. Whatever happened to that personal touch? Well, we sometimes forget that before the telephone, meetings had to be conducted in-person after spending a small fortune on transportation. All other business was done via telegraph. Or through the post. There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned letter, is there?
Technology has helped modern businesses achieve great strides. It may seem like progress is moving too fast for our manners to keep up, but not all of these strides are as curt and dry as others. Some tech, geared towards organization and security isn’t increasing the distance between us but rather increasing trust. And some technology – just as trains and telephones did in the past – is helping us reach one another and stay in touch.
An old fashioned bank vault keeps your money safe. A sturdy lock keeps your files safe. But greater digitization is laying our money and files bare. The crooks have become hackers. We’re always relying on the latest methods to deal with these new threats. It is like a corporate arms race, and it is unavoidable. Are we better off with digital documents and digital security? We think so. It’s easier now to keep multiple copies of every file in multiple places. Neither fire, nor flood damage or theft can cripple a company’s data infrastructure any longer. Many companies are keeping copies in the cloud for just this purpose.
Hardware has accelerated to keep up with the security demands of digital. Chipped identification cards continue to be among the safest, most cost-effective ways to monitor and limit access to your facility and the different departments therein. For storing in an intermediary device, you can use hardware-encrypted flash drives and external hard drives, some of which even include military grade security and a keypad right on the stick itself. MicroSD cards can store several hundred gigabits of data on a device no bigger than a fingernail. You can dramatically increase file storage and transport capacity without impacting your data security.
Enterprise Data Management
Also known as Enterprise Content Management (ECM) or Document Management, companies and government offices aren’t just storing their files securely but are using these solutions to organize, share, annotate, find, and retrieve them. In short, an ECM application automates the filing system. If you want to batch scan documents into the system, you can automate this task as well, indexing the items for easy search and retrieval later. Set up intelligent workflows that mimic real business processes, sending files through the motions so that the right people get their hands on them to approve, send back, make notes, modify, or email out.
Voice Over Internet Protocol
This comes right back to the good old days we were describing. You never have to give up a quality phone call just because landlines are going out of style. Besides, many fixed line phones remain relevant today with Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). With this technology, you can still make the same phone calls to the same numbers in your rolodex. VOIP refers to communications services over the internet rather than the Public Switched Telephone Network. You can use VOIP to text, call, or send a fax. It also means you can process your communications through your computer or server. This gives companies the ability to digitally monitor and record corporate communication. It allows government agencies to produce transcripts of phone calls in real time. Employees can also receive and check voicemail through their computer. You can still chat the old fashioned way. But with so many options, why would you want to?
The Mobile Office
Company cars. Company cards. Company ball games with the clients. There are some things that a company just doesn’t pay for anymore. Unfortunately, electronics are among those as businesses switch to a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) model. Employees use their personal laptops, tablets, or cell phones to conduct business, access files, and process payments. Usually, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) will be established so that everyone at the organization can remotely access the private database, ECM, and chat. Some employees work from home. Others are constantly on the road like travelling salesmen in days gone by.
Speaking of personal devices, office gadgets are advancing the cause of the office diaspora. Portable printers can fit in your pocket. When placed over a page on a flat, level surface, they can laser print an entire document. Some of these gizmos have scanners included, picking up an image of an existing document in the same way. Need to shred files while on the road as well? The much quieter, more compact pocket shredder will also fit in your bag or briefcase. An ECM can allow you to securely send linked files to customers or send completed paperwork back to the head office by opening the program in your browser window.
Marketing and Sales Automation
Client Relations Management (CRM) and Marketing Automation solutions streamline those elements of business which seem the most human to us. No technology inherently involved. Face-to-face meetings. Energetic phone calls. Brass tacks. Door-to-door campaigns. Yeah, right. For a long time now, sales and marketing have been carried out through computer programs, telemarketers, drip campaigns, automated emails, robo-calls. There’s no reason we can’t approach these tools from a human perspective, though. Technology is making it easier and faster to find what you need, when you need it, and not a moment later! It’s also, as we’ve seen, made it easier for companies and customers to stay in contact.
CRMs are like a rolodex and a calendar rolled into one, complete with notifications, follow-up alarms, notes, and business cards several pages long. Clients receive the service they need because it is easier for their vendors to reach out often and keep their information straight. On the other side, a CRM allows the companies who use them to find new potential buyers, organize their appointments, catalog their calls, and trade information with marketing. A marketing automation platform (and sometimes these are rolled into the CRM or vice versa), can manage the relationship with potential or existing customers. Email campaigns can be sent through the platform. Websites can be built and maintained, complete with Search Engine Optimization to drive traffic there. Information on sales, new products, recalls, and events can be sent out to the customer base. The entire process of introducing a promising lead to your services can be automated just enough that the account manager knows when and how to reach out with ease. Some Marketing Automation and CRM systems can even integrate with your ECM.
We may prefer to believe that technology is a nuisance or merely a necessary evil. It’s much more than that. Technology spells progress for business and public institutions. It speeds up antiquated systems, provides much needed information, secures files, allows you to work from home or abroad, saves your company time and money, and encourages a positive community. Maybe all of those old analog phones and trolley rides weren’t the good old days. Maybe the good old days are right now, and they’re digital as all get out!