How Organized is your Business?

By Arlene Allen and Darnell Dobson, Contributing writers

You’ve probably heard it a million times by now: Business isn’t what it used to be. But neither are workplaces. That means companies, large and small, must continuously evolve to not just stay competitive, but rise to the top. While businesses tend to give a great deal of attention to their moneymaking products or services, the often neglected little de- tails affect their ability to succeed more than you think.

Today, the most successful corporations have adopted the ideology of “work smart, not hard.” To make this happen, these companies are run like well conducted orchestras where being organized and having a plan wins the day, every day.

What does it take to get organized? There are many aspects to being organized, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on three key areas: having a plan, having the right tools, and creating the right environment.

A GOOD PLAN IS EVERYTING

Without a plan, it is extremely difficult for an organization to succeed. Without clear directions, employees are bound to lose sight of what they are working toward. Thus, a key part of being organized is having a plan with clear goals and objectives so that each employee knows what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

Dan Feliciano of Fast Company says, “for organizations, managers, and employees to be successful, more emphasis needs to be placed on making sure every employee and every manager knows what he or she needs to accomplish in the present and future. It’s also tremendously easier for managers to do their jobs, to improve productivity, and to manage proactively, rather than waste their time stamping out small fires after the fact.”

Organizational goals are a road map of sort for employees. Goals tell employees where the organization is going and how exactly it is going to get there. This kind of clarity helps employees stay on track — if an employee has a difficult decision to make, they can consult the organiza- tion’s goals for guidance.

Overall, having a plan allows companies to remain focused on achieving its goals. This is the first step in being organized. Once everyone has a purpose and a focus, it’s time to equip them with the right tools and ensure they’re comfortable at work.

MANAGING CONTENT AND DATA

Keeping the supply closet well stocked with office essentials used to be enough to ensure your staff had everything they need to meet company goals. But, in the digital age, the supply closet has taken a backseat to gadgets, gizmos, software and apps!

More than ever, the database has become the backbone of the orga- nization. Databases store and sort vast amounts of information that can be accessed with the click of a mouse; the database forms the core of a company’s IT infrastructure and allows companies to operate efficiently and effectively.

“Databases can make your organization much more efficient and give management valuable insights,” says Annie Pilon, Small Business Trends. “They help make sense of your information. They can help you make  your products and services more valuable. They can help you sell more.”

Gone are the days of the Rolodex and stock sheet; now organizations depend on customer relationship management (CRM) and inventory tracking databases. The file cabinet that once contained employee folders is being replaced by a personnel database, and companies are now able to collect and analyze vast amounts of data about their current and potential customers and the products they purchase and desire.

For example, a CRM database may include a customer’s contact details, the date and amount of his last order, the total amount of purchases for the last year, a list of favorite products and the

products returned, details of customer service calls and more. Databases can also be used to manage marketing and promotions, to export email addresses and to prepare shipping labels.

Similarly, in addition to telling you what’s in a warehouse, storage room and on store shelves, an inventory track- ing database can be integrated with bar codes and scanners to form a complete tracking system; monitoring products as they move from one place to another and updating the database so you never need to count the inventory in a ware- house. A database can also alert you when products and supplies are running short so you never run out of essential items.

A third variation is the personnel database, which can become a one- man army in managing your employees’ information, simplifying scheduling and preventing payroll errors. Everything on a pay stub is housed in the personnel database. It’s also possible to link two or more databases, so you could, for example, create an association between a sales representative in the personnel database and the accounts she is responsible for in the CRM database.

Databases are also useful resources for analyzing data and predicting future trends. Customer behavior is predictable, and a database can help you anticipate and fulfill your their needs. For example, a sales promotion effectiveness report might show that sales of certain products increased after an email promotion while sales of other products increased after an in-store promotion.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT DATABASE

Given the importance of the database, a key part of having the right tools, is the process of choosing the correct database. For some small businesses using Microsoft Excel, Pilon points out that a database is not the same as a spreadsheet.

“A lot of small businesses are heavy users of Micro- soft Excel or Google spreadsheets. A spreadsheet may seem similar to a database,” says Pilon. “But a spreadsheet is not nearly as powerful as a data-base for large volumes of information. Also, getting information into and out of spreadsheets can be clunky. You may have to do a lot of manual data entry, or manually exporting and importing data to other programs.”

SPACEAGE MANAGEMENT

In spite of the Cloud and the many apps designed to reduce our need for paper copies, it’s clear that paper will still be with us for some time. Can you imagine life without Post-It Notes? Indeed, the digital age has brought lots of new and shiny things and they all need to find a place on our over-crowded desks. So, let us look at some traditional ways of keeping it together.

Audrey Thomas, writing for Smead, a leading provider of document management solutions, offers some tips for keeping your desk organized regardless of how much real estate you have in your office.

1. Approach your desk like it’s a prime piece of real estate: anything on it must deserve the space it’s using. Only items you use on a daily basis should be on your desk.

2. Drawers and pencil caddies are a good way to keep your essential items. Also, re- sources, files and other items you use on a daily basis should be within arms-reach. Get rid of redundant items that you don’t use!

3. Think about freeing up more of that prime real estate. Put your computer monitor on a stand to raise it to a proper ergonomic level and free up more desk space. If possible, install shelves above your desk, providing an area where you can keep binders and other resources within arms-reach.

4. Create a system to organize your current projects by placing them in project jackets or file folders. Take the time to label each file and store them upright in an incline sorter. This is a great way to avoid piles of files and allows you to visually see all of your projects.

5. Use a stacked In/Out tray for papers and unopened mail coming into your office until you can decide what to do with them. Use the bottom of the two trays as your In-Box to limit how much stuff can accumulate before you give it some attention.

6. Get rid of distractions such as excess personal items, including things that need to return to your home. You should also pay close attention to the space under your desk as it’s often an easy hiding place for clutter.

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT KEEPING YOUR DESK NEAT!

Still got a Rolodex? You could be missing out on some key technology that can help propel your business forward. The Cloud and a slew of digital apps are making it easier than ever to stay organized and productive, while at the same time reducing costs and increasing efficiency.

The Cloud is also credited with providing employees with universal, remote access to applications, and being able to update software more rapidly. For exam- ple, Adobe has long provided its Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, etc.) in the Cloud on a subscription basis. Updates to these applications are deployed immediately to subscribers who no longer have to order a box set with the latest version. Many other soft- ware companies already followed suit.

In Small Business Trends, Nellie Akalp, recommends using cloud-based tools, like Google Drive and Dropbox,to store and share files. “By housing files in the cloud, you can help clean up your personal storage, as well as save valuable time spent emailing documents back and forth when collaborating with others.”

APPS FOR THE ASKING

Thanks to the proliferation of smartphones, you can now find an app for every possible need you could ever have. Among the plethora of apps out there, you will find several gems to help keep you organized and your workspace clutter-free. For example, a scanning app is a great little gadget that allows you to create digital copies of paper files. Some apps, like Neat Receipts, will allow you to export data to other apps, such as your expense or accounting app, which means you can create a tiny world of apps that talk to each other to simplify your life.

IT’S NOT JUST THE CORNER OFFICE THAT NEEDS WINDOWS

Another area of organization that business leaders need to be mindful of is the office layout and design. A global study conducted by Steelcase Inc. in 2016 in conjunction with global research firm, Ipsos, concluded that, “workers who are highly satisfied with various aspects of their workplace also demonstrated higher levels of engagement while employees who were dissatisfied with their offices were also highly disengaged.”

The study, covering 17 countries and nearly 12,500 participants, reached the conclusion that there is a direct correlation between office layout and employee engagement. Increasingly, organizations are moving towards more collaborative office setups that will maximize interactions while taking into consideration the total health and wellbeing of employees. From encouraging less sitting and more walking and standing to having large windows for more natural light to providing better breakrooms (see OfficeToday Spring Issue) that encourage employees to refuel and recharge, organizations are starting to catch on.

In a presentation last year, Chris Congdon, the global director of research communications at Steelcase Inc., urged organizations to ask themselves if their workplaces are adapting to the rapidly changing work culture that currently exists. She also said that businesses should consider two things when de- signing office space for today’s work- force. The first is the physical, emotional, and cognitive wellbeing of employees and the second is to ensure that the workplace is an ecosystem of spaces. According to Congdon, “an ecosystem in the workplace is a lot like an ecosystem in nature, it’s evolving and changing as it needs to adapt.”

For example, Congdon, says that employees need to have the flexibility to move throughout their workspace comfortably: being able to sit, stand and walk about freely throughout the day. She also points out that employees need privacy; a time when they can withdraw to think and to analyze alone. Workspaces that give employees control of their environment result in more engaged workers.

To be successful in today’s business environment, a company needs to be organized on multiple levels. This means equipping employees with the tools and resources they need to be productive, and then providing a place where they are comfortable and in control of their environment.

This Article was originally published in the Spring 2017 Issue of Office Today Magazine