Which desk is a more efficient workspace: one covered with papers, photos and files in random, four-foot stacks, or one that has all documents properly labeled and filed into color-coded folders in one tidy drawer?
Most likely, it’s the second desk. Disorganized, misplaced information—no matter the format—leads to inefficient processes, a waste of business time and money, and decisions being made based on incomplete data. Any one of these can have a significant negative impact on business. What can organizations do to bring order from the chaos?
Why So Scattered?
Until the widespread use of computers, businesses tended to run rather lean when it came to managing information. An office with no more than five or six employees would place documents in each other’s in-tray, complete the tasks and move on to the next job. Now and then, the telephone would ring, the call would be noted and any potential action would be assigned and completed.
Everything changed when information went digital. Now employees are facing 60-100 emails per day, colleagues who aren’t office-based, SMS messages, tweets, images and so on. However, the system for managing this information has barely changed over the years and is now completely failing.
Because information management fell through the cracks, it has now become scattered across different devices, different apps and systems, on different servers, in the cloud and in many cases just on a piece of paper and in someone’s head. It has become unmanageable and is causing data to become a hindrance to businesses, rather than an enabler for growth. Employees are confronted with information from everywhere and have to find their own system for managing it.
In response to the pain that disorganized data causes, many businesses try to create ad-hoc processes for their particular office or department, but it has little effect on the wider problem. All this scattered data is therefore leading to a range of growing problems for businesses. Some may just be losing time as employees search for lost information, some are losing profits due to missed revenue opportunities, and some may even be risking their customer satisfaction by having incomplete information available when it is most needed.
Employees also experience the pain. They become frustrated by inefficient processes, which could potentially lead to reduced job satisfaction and the possibility of employee talent, and the information they have in their head, moving onto a rival organization.
Defeating the Clutter
In order to overcome the clutter and chaos, organizations must consolidate all their information. By implementing a central system to manage data and enable clear processes to be formed, businesses can begin to effectively manage internal and external information.
Caution is advised, though, before any decisions are made about what system to implement, particularly given the continually changing nature of workflows. Today a significant number of employees either work from home or are field-based. Modern employees are mobile; they are not tied to a desk but equipped with a laptop, tablet and smart phone and able to work wherever, whenever they need to.
Consequently, organizations would do well to use a system that is accessible on the go and that can operate independent of an office. A recent FileMaker study has shown many organizations are turning to custom apps to reduce inefficiency and increase productivity. The study highlighted how 81 percent of businesses had reported that custom apps reduced inefficient tasks, with a further 74 percent stating they increased team productivity.
Apps enable employees and customers to securely access vital information at any time, from any place and extend mission-critical business processes far beyond the boundaries of the enterprise. The difference with custom apps is that they are created to meet the unique business needs of a team or organization, working across various devices, desktops and mobile, to service the modern worker.
It’s no longer the case that small and mid-sized businesses can’t develop their own custom apps. Today it can be faster and less expensive to build a custom app from scratch than to buy and try to customize off-the-shelf software. In this way, businesses are tackling the problem of scattered information directly, implementing central systems to ensure the business is aimed more towards growth. A centralized system that works across multiple platforms and easily integrates with existing systems helps ensure that disorganized data is not having a negative impact on business productivity and limiting potential for growth.