By Ann Monroe

At some point, every small business hits a wall. Employees can’t do what they need to do with their current batch of tools, which means they can’t move forward. This stops productivity in its tracks. Innovation languishes in the “to do” pile. Business goals molder on the corporate vision board.

Productivity Stalled

There is a remedy for this condition, thankfully. By leveraging smart, networked and connected technologies, you will get jobs done faster and use data and intelligence to create new revenue and profitable ways to run your business.

However, organizations are still finding that new opportunities for growth and innovation are stifled by the scope of day-to-day work. According to the 2018-2019 State of Work report, while 64 percent of employees reported their workplaces encourage them to try out new strategies for completing tasks, 58 percent said day-to-day work prevents them from doing so.

Automation is a trending solution for today’s work overload. In fact, 86 percent of employees believe that automation will help them make time for innovation, as well as inspire them to find new ways to innovate. Additionally, 44 percent of respondents are requesting more tools to help better manage their work, suggesting that automation would be a fitting solution.

However, more tools do not always equal better tools. Small businesses are trying to manage an explosion of appliance apps aimed at helping them work better, but this is actually hampering innovation. According to industry analysis, the average employee has to use 9.4 apps every day just to get work done, and 74 percent of employees have an average of five apps open at any given time.

This is where productivity grinds to a slow and painful halt. Systems and processes fail to keep up with the changing workplace, and employees are caught in a loop of manual, redundant, low-value tasks that are necessary to complete but could be more clearly defined, efficient or automated.

Know When You’re Stuck

When this happens, it’s time for a change: you’re surrounded by appliance apps that do important things—file sharing, email, calendar, etc.—but they’re not driving your team forward.

Your small business will suffer when:

  • Employees are doing the same things over and over again but expecting a different result. That’s the definition of insanity.
  • Innovation has stalled. You see opportunities to grow or be more efficient but can’t execute.
  • Operations are held hostage by work. If you leave work for just one day, the business will suffer.
  • Revenue and cash flow are steady but not trending upward.

Get Unstuck

Getting unstuck requires a different kind of technology, one that is flexible and customized, enabling teams to innovate the way they work, right where the work is done. A solution that fits the business’s unique needs and processes, allows for change as business grows and empowers teams to solve their business challenges. A development platform that lets you build exactly what you need – without needing to have an IT degree.

Small businesses don’t have to hand over an enormous sum for an enterprise IT system  and its consequent need for an IT department. In this scenario, custom solutions don’t require IT to build them, putting the “doers” and problem solvers in the driver’s seat of innovation. With today’s mobile app capabilities, your custom app can work on every device your employees currently use—or will buy in the future or bring from home.

Because mobile apps are able to integrate with APIs, you will be able to include software, services, security, IoT devices and advanced technologies that can shape new growth opportunities. Together, all these functionalities will streamline workflows and eliminate redundant, manual tasks that can be automated or made more efficient so teams can focus on innovation and business growth.

Moving forward

Small businesses often have fewer financial resources to draw on when they hit the productivity wall. The prospect of spending a king’s ransom on a new technology is not only worrisome but often impossible. However, technology investments that offload time-consuming daily tasks and streamline workflows are within financial reach and pay the dividend of freed-up time for innovation.

Ann Monroe is vice president of worldwide marketing and customer success for FileMaker, Inc,  an Apple subsidiary that makes the FileMaker Platform, a Workplace Innovation Platform for teams of a few to a few hundred who are stuck in a work rut that neither appliance apps nor enterprise systems help them escape. By making powerful technologies accessible to everyone, the FileMaker Platform quickly solves unique problems — even as they change.

Business tools stock photo by Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock