Cleaning has always been an innovative and early adopter of technology. Graffiti removal machinery, micro-fibre cloths, the new ionised water cleaners and green cleaning technology are all recent examples of innovative technology that is changing cleaning operations. These operational areas are a natural focus of innovation, and also highly competitive as many companies are looking at the same equipment.
Computer technology is often seen as just a cost of doing business, with little or no potential for innovation. However, this is a great area for companies to realise significant cost savings and competitive advantage through innovation. Because most companies ignore the strategies around their standard computer technology, you can gain a leap on your competitors by being smarter and working with your staff to implement innovations.
Here are the top five tips for mixing computer technology and staff to cut costs and create competitive advantage.
1. Ride the Cloud
Cloud technology refers to applications and file servers that are provided to end users as and when needed. These services can be free or at minimal cost. They also allow you to easily add capacity when needed. Google is the largest cloud provider and is used by government departments, small and large businesses. And we’re not just talking about Google for searching, Google Apps allows you to manage all of your email under your own domain name. There is free access for up to 50 email accounts under your domain, but paid access at $5 USD per person per month gives you a lot more storage space and other features. This is a great solution for small business, as it replaces Servers, MS Exchange, and expensive support and maintenance contracts. All of these expenses including the software license and hardware costs are all eliminated. You can also run most of your business applications in the cloud – accounting, CRM, Operations and QA (with Kevah Works).
2. Go Web-based with Documents
In addition to emails, when you sign-up for Google Apps, you get a large amount of file storage. You can edit documents online using google Apps, or you can edit using your standard Office program and up-load and share in the Google Doc’s folders. Saving these files in folders in Google Docs, you can have them just for yourself, or share them with selected colleagues. Using Google Docs in this way can replace your old file server and allow staff to access documents where, and when needed. Documents for major sites are often a big issue. They are large, and not always easily stored or tracked on site. You can use the cloud to store these documents for your sites with your own website or with Google Sites. Using your own website requires a smart and flexible website, with a secure members area for customers to log-on. Google Sites allows you to create a specific website for each job, and to securely restrict access to the contents. Either way, you have moved your documents into the cloud!
3. Staff Choice
The biggest burden in computer technology is the cost of hardware and software, and how frequently technology changes. Two years is a long time in IT, and this leaves companies with a continual capital expenditure. You can sidestep a lot of these costs by allowing managers to bring their own equipment into the business. Smart Phones, tablets such as iPads, and even laptops can become personal purchases or subsidised benefits to your staff. If they own it, they are more likely to look after it well, and to choose something they are happy using. Staff will also spend more time using the tech they own. Further, we see that companies who encourage their staff to embrace and use technology are often suggesting innovative ways to use that technology. Lastly, if you are connected with Cloud email and file sharing, the old risks of viruses is largely eliminated.
Sensible policies for staff use of technology are always required, even more so if you are using cloud based systems. Standard policies on use of technology should cover care and maintenance, and prohibitions on sending illegal, abusive, racist, defamatory, etc material. You should also consider privacy, confidentiality, and requirements for staff to return and delete any copies of documents held locally on their hardware. Training covering the policies for new staff, and annual refresher’s for all staff, should be part of your overall technology training program.
5. Train your Staff
To get the most from your staff, ensure that they are trained in both the technology and your business practices. The combination is critical, because staff need to know how to use the technology as well as how you want it used in your business. A good training program will address the requirements for new staff – progressively training them in the various systems they will be using over a period of the first two or three weeks of their employment. The program should also address advanced skills, both in use and administration of the systems. This provides for skills progression in line with career progression, and also embeds the skills for using your systems in a number of staff at all levels. A good way to get started is to create a technology skills profile for each level of staff (from operations, supervisors on up to senior management). This will provide you with a good guide for building a progressive training program, where you can prepare staff for the next step.
Google Apps – www.google.com/apps/
Google Sites – www.google.com/sites/
Operations and QA – www.valoremsystems.com/kevah-works/
This article was written by Jon Tinberg and first appeared in the trade magazine – InClean, in the July/August 2011 issue.