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In a competitive economy, you need to leverage every possible tool to increase revenue and decrease expenses. One way to achieve both goals is to ensure that your people have the software they need to be more productive, provide superior customer service and reduce costs.

The right software can enhance your ability to use the data you collect. Perhaps you need to create targeted marketing campaigns or empower customer-service representatives by giving them access to the data they need to better assist your customers. You might want to mobilize your field representatives to optimize scheduling, reduce fuel costs or accelerate payments. Perhaps you need access to real-time data so that you can make informed decisions or take advantage of opportunities. A custom software development company can help you build the right software you need.

The Internet is a virtual minefield of links, banner ads, pop-ups and videos. Marketers are clamoring for attention, and it appears that they are getting it. What seems to be a straightforward, quick task, such as reading a page of text online, can be quickly derailed by all of the distractions that are sure to accompany it.If your employees need to go online to complete tasks, you might want to consider adding task management software.

How task management software improves productivity

Custom task management software is available if you need it. Off-the-shelf solutions are offered for a variety of prices, starting with the totally free Google Tasks that everyone with a Gmail account already has (but may not know they have).

Although specific functionality varies by product, most task management software shares some basic features.

  • Users can typically create multiple task lists, and some programs support sub-lists as well.
  • Many programs can match tasks with your emails to retrieve relevant correspondence.
  • Tasks can be sorted to prioritize tasks by deadline.
  • Some programs allow you to attach files or notes to tasks.
  • Most programs will sync to your calendar to help you improve organization.

The choice of a task management software depends primarily on the number of team members. Many of the free or low-cost programs are most suitable for individuals or teams with fewer than three members. However, there are also off-the-shelf programs that can scale to handle larger teams or interdepartmental projects.

Three ways to get the productivity software you need.

You can choose an off-the-shelf solution. There are software packages that you install locally, and there are also options that run in the cloud, enabling your employees to work from any location. Such solutions, however, may not address your specific software needs as they tend to be somewhat generic.

You can choose an off-the-shelf solution and engage a professional developer to tweak it for you. Developers can add functionality and features to virtually any “canned” software you choose. Many of the cloud-based solutions have an app store where you can purchase extensions or plug-ins that will work with the software, but again, these are sometimes too generic to provide the functionality you need.

You can have custom software developed that is tailored to your business, your industry or your unique situation. Custom software often requires a higher initial investment, but in most cases, you will achieve a better rate of return over time. A custom software solution ensures that you receive precisely what you need to achieve your goals.

A custom application can greatly improve employee productivity.

Custom applications support mobility.

Employees who must spend all of their day at one desk tend to grow less productive as the hours pass. When they can perform tasks from various locations, they normally accomplish more.

Mobility also enhances productivity in another way.

When employees are mobile, they tend to work longer hours without “burning out” as quickly (see this article in the Harvard Business Review). For example, a salesperson is able to update a customer order remotely while sitting on the couch watching TV after work.

Most employees are at their most productive when they can choose the devices they prefer.

Some employees may prefer a smartphone for certain tasks, for example, and a laptop for others. A custom business application can provide options for each employee to select his or her favorite device for the task at hand.

Enterprise apps allow employees to work from any location.

Previously, employees who were traveling on business could do little productive work while commuting or spending time in their hotel rooms. If an office had to be closed temporarily due to inclement weather or issues with the building, employees could not work. With custom apps, employees can be productive even when they cannot report to the office or are on the road.

Productivity can be improved when employees are able to collaborate on projects easily.

Enterprise apps can allow entire teams to work on a project simultaneously, while data synchronization between devices keeps everyone moving forward in near real-time.

Most employees find enterprise apps to be engaging as well as efficient.

This can lead to greater enjoyment of work and less stress.

Overcoming productivity challenges in the workplace

We like to think of our computers as being very special and in many ways they are. However, when they suddenly stop working, some individuals tend to handle the “outage” in a less-than-objective manner.

Are your employees productive even without the Internet?

Over the years as CIO I have seen it all – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Among the most interesting are those cases where a manager would come to my office complaining that my (IT) team is responsible for their employee not doing any work for hours because their PC stopped working. I smile and ask them “what would they do if their pencil broke – wouldn’t they just go sharpen it or go get another?” In most organizations there is at least one computer somewhere that can be either shared or borrowed in a pinch – it may even be available from the IT helpdesk. The idea that IT is getting blamed for an employee in another department not doing their work makes no sense to me at all.

I think it goes without question that our employees are charged with providing excellent service and experience to our customers, period. It’s just a fact of life that there will always be some challenge that inhibits our ability to serve. This happens every single day in different ways – we have to work through it. When it happens, our job is to figure out how to best get around the issue in a way that is hopefully transparent to the customer. If the customer suffers delays or quality of service we risk losing them – this is not an option. So there is no excuse for not actively working to find a solution no matter what the problem – this includes when our computers stop working.

Business and IT must work together proactively to plan upfront how employees will “get by” when their technology fails. Develop a solid Business Continuance plan. You will avoid disruptions to the customer, and save face for everyone involved when things go wrong.