It’s that time of year again. Time to reflect on the year that has passed and look forward to the year that is to come. Many of you will be setting personal goals in the early weeks of this new year. As you make your New Year’s resolutions for 2016, do not forget to make resolutions for improvements to your business as well. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
1. Move to the Cloud.
If you are not yet using cloud-based software such as Office 365 or Google for Work, there are a number of great reasons why you should. It’s common for today’s professionals to work remotely, whether that’s from home, in a hotel room or even in airports. To be most productive, employees should be provided with access to the tools they need to work just as if they were working from the office. Many cloud-based software solutions can connect users to their applications and files with just a web browser and internet connection. Cloud-based software solutions do not require the large up-front investment that traditional on premise licensing models require. There’s nothing to install or maintain. Use of cloud-based software may also minimize your risk of data loss when your application data is stored in the cloud by a reputable provider. Please remember: cloud solutions are only as strong as the internet connection that connects you to them. If you have a flaky internet connection, you will have a bad experience. Upgrade your internet connection or postpone your cloud migration until a more reliable connection is available to you.
2. Make a Cyber Security Plan.
Security breaches continued to make headlines in 2015. You are familiar with the big ones: Anthem, Sony, Ashley Madison. You are less likely to be aware of the thousands of small businesses who also fell victim to cyber security attacks last year.
Seventy-one percent of security threats specifically target small business. The reason for that is simple. Just like big businesses small businesses have everything cyber thieves want: a flourishing bank account, employees’ personal data, customer credit card numbers, etc., but they are likely to lack the adequate tools and resources to protect that information.
If cyber security has been on your mind (and it should be) but you’ve yet to begin tackling the issue, resolve to make 2016 the year you stop “planning to plan” and make cyber security a priority in your business. Use FCC’s free Small Biz Cyber Planner to get you started at www.fcc.gov/cyberplanner. While this is an excellent and comprehensive resource, I encourage you to use it in collaboration with IT support professionals who can help you customize the plan to meet your unique needs.
3. Test Your Backup and Disaster Recovery Plan.
Hopefully you are performing regular backups of your company information and have a documented recovery plan outlining how your business will resume operations and restore access to information in the event of a disaster. When was the last time you tested your backup system? I do not mean that you verified that your data copied correctly. When was the last time you performed a complete and thorough disaster recovery test? I would wager you have never done this, because frankly, no one does. Failure to do so is extremely risky. Make it a priority this year to test your backup and disaster recovery plans. Consult with an IT professional and identify where you may have vulnerabilities you are unaware of.
4. Invest in Technology that Improves Your Business.
When you hire new staff members, you realize the benefits that come with bringing in a fresh set of eyes. Often newly hired staff ask questions that make you think, “why do we do things this way?” Challenge yourself to look at your business through a fresh set of eyes this year. Specifically look for inefficiencies and think about how you can improve them. Consider ways new technologies could improve the way work gets done in your business. Better yet, consider how you might take better advantage of the technology you already own to make time and cost-saving improvements to your business.
5. Train Your Staff.
How well do you and your employees know the software applications you use each day? Consider Microsoft Word as an example. As you look through the ribbon menu, do you see functions and features you never use? Chances are good there are a lot of untapped functions in that single application. Do you have employees whose productivity is significantly higher than their counterparts? It may be they are using tools to automate tasks others are performing manually. Investigate this. Be intentional about training your staff to efficiently use the tools available to them and resolve to get the most return from your technology investments.