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By Philip Piletic

Business success has always been based on achieving high efficiency and productivity. This is still true in the digital age. But today we have many more tools available, all designed to achieve more gain for less effort. That kind of efficiency in operation is more important than ever with all the competition only a few clicks away on the internet. Here are some digital tools that can help you streamline operations in 2017.

Cloud Computing

No, it isn’t new – it’s better. More businesses than ever are turning to the cloud to provide services for remote file storage, management software, and big data analytics. Scalable, specific services are now available to small or big companies. There are more cloud providers competing with each other, which means falling prices and better service all around. The old skepticism about migrating to the cloud, such as reliance on someone else managing your security, redundancy, and disaster recovery procedures, can now be taken as service standards. Remote access to internet resources will save you a lot of time and trouble. As for security of your files, it is as solid, if not better, than traditional IT.

Industry-based Management Software

The result of the demand for innovation from software developers is the appearance of industry-specific technologies. Options are specifically engineered to meet the industry needs of everything from finance to construction. So let’s say you a healthcare professional. There a specific solution made to help you streamline daily tasks by using desktop software to access web-based solutions. It provides a variety of administrative functions, such as scheduling and billing, as well as storing, managing, and sharing the growing number of electronic patient records in compliance with changing regulations. A patient’s whole medical history, including prescriptions and diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, can be shared among networked providers no matter where the patient seeks treatment. Another thing that makes lives easier is integration with HICAPS so you can can make claims, send quotations to health funds to instantly get to know the benefits and make EFTPOS payments both with credit and debit cards.

Reduce Travel

Traveling back and forth to meetings used to be a necessity that ate up a lot of time and expenses. It’s now rarely necessary. Video conferencing solutions like GoToMeeting provide face-to-face interaction between your company and remote clients, staff, partners, or consultants from all over the world. Virtual private networks (VPNs) can ensure that this communication is confidential and secure. Another recent time-saver is the rise of virtual data rooms, where documents can be shared online under very secure conditions. Your company can conduct due diligence in mergers and acquisitions by setting access schedules and issuing or revoking user credentials.

Mobile Workforces

Millions of smartphones and other mobile devices are sold every year, with an increasing number of special apps and faster Wi-Fi networks. This allows more employees to work from home or in the field – any time and anywhere. Microsoft’s latest version of Office is cloud-based, and future versions will likely follow suit. More business functions are being based on mobile apps, from data forms to payment systems, that make doing business more flexible.

Online Collaboration

Other cloud-based platforms like Google Drive allow a greater degree of file sharing and centralized, real-time updating of changes. Teams can not only create and share, but edit documents from multiple locations. Exchanging files via email is outdated; now anyone with a link can access the file share over any device and communicate via text messaging while changes are being made and synchronized. This concept continues to spread because it saves a great deal of time in policies such as collecting approvals or collating multiple copies.

Accounting Software

The former approach of making manual records of every transaction no longer makes sense for efficiency. The financial applications appearing now can collect data from multiple sources such as point-of-sale devices, electronic banking, and online payments into a cohesive virtual ledger. Internet-based applications can automate common tasks like invoices, sales quotes, account reconciliation, budgets, and more, plus do automated reporting like dashboards or charting. It makes more sense, and frees up more time, to leave the numbers game to the computers.

Streamlining your workflow in 2017 is about finding the right technology for your business needs and getting it integrated with your company’s IT infrastructure. There may be an onboarding process in getting your people trained in new skills, or customizing environments to your business model, but if it improves efficiency going forward, it’s the right move.

Philip Piletic is a freelance writer of technology, small business and marketing. Follow him at @Philip_Piletic.