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Five Ways To Improve Your Company's Efficiency
Small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers and suppliers are increasingly savvy, with high expectations for immediate and personalized service and support. Expectations are rising and yet SMBs are also under pressure to do more with the same or fewer resources.

"The pace of competition is accelerating and SMBs must compete with larger, better-funded businesses while keeping ahead of smaller, leaner competitors," says Ray Boggs, vice president of SMB research for IDC.

The solution: find new ways to optimize operational efficiency in order to improve productivity and reduce costs. "The network can play a significant role in improving business efficiency by ensuring that customers, employees, and suppliers get secure access to real-time data to improve business decision making and, ultimately, customer service," says Lauren Ventura, senior director of commercial market management at Cisco Systems.

According to IDC research, 60.2% of SMBs with 100 to 999 employees cited improving efficiency as their top business priority in 2005. And yet, only 23% of those same businesses rated efficiency-enhancing infrastructure investments, such as expanding or upgrading a network, as a high priority.

Here's a look at five business challenges SMBs face today, and how a secure network can provide your company with a new way of doing business to improve efficiency, cut costs, and more.

1. Providing Easy Access to Information
Delivering speedy access to information so employees can make solid business decisions is a challenge nearly all SMBs face. Networks that are slow, frequently down, or unsecured don't allow employees to move quickly, which could result in lost opportunities and revenues.
For example, Elliance, an online-marketing firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had a simple hub-based network which frequently slowed to a crawl when employees downloaded large files. Elliance built a new high-performance network, reducing response time to "milliseconds," says CEO Abu Noaman. As a result, employees can now quickly post and access core business intelligence on customers, vendors, team members, and processes. "Our technology keeps the sales and brand manager in front of the clients at all times," Noaman adds, and that has enabled Elliance to enter new markets while maintaining the same size sales team.

2. Delivering Anywhere, Anytime Access
SMBs today have to provide employees working out of hotel rooms, airport lounges, remote branches, and home offices with anywhere access to information. Without it, mobile and remote workers lose valuable time. Worse, sales personnel may have outdated customer information or miss urgent messages informing them of a critical business matter.

An Internet Protocol (IP) network connects remote and mobile workers to an SMB's critical applications such as customer-relationship management and sales force automation tools, along with e-mail, instant messaging, and other tools. A unified IP network supplies easy access to application data and can support voice and video applications, too. A virtual private network solution makes remote and mobile access secure.

3. Creating Effective Business Processes with Partners
Inefficient operations can prevent an otherwise qualified SMB from doing business with some organizations, according to Ventura. For example, some national retailers require their suppliers to follow certain efficiency-enhancing procedures, and SMBs that don't meet the criteria are out of the running.
A network with top-notch security and reliability is key to enabling SMBs to develop efficient business processes that meet their partners' needs, Ventura says.

4. Ensuring Regulatory Compliance
Government regulations mandating higher levels of customer or patient privacy is another ongoing challenge for companies of all sizes. A firewall and intrusion detection system keep patient data secure while IP Communications improves efficiency.

5. Enhancing Employee Collaboration
Without solid and frequent collaboration among employees, good ideas die and opportunities are missed. The result: Valuable workers, frustrated by the operational inefficiencies that result from poor collaboration, may become disheartened and depart for other jobs. And yet, how does an SMB develop a richly collaborative environment when many employees work remotely or on the go? An IP network with integrated voice, video, data, and wireless communications delivers interactive calendaring, Web-based videoconferencing, IP telephony, and other tools that foster collaboration.

In a nutshell, a secure, scalable, continuously available IP network provides the infrastructure needed to achieve efficiencies throughout your operations.



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Posted by ROOT Technologies


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