The on-demand economy & business growth

The business world has never been kind to those who don’t stay ahead. If you’re not at least keeping pace with advances in technology, you’re getting left behind. The problem is it already takes so much to establish yourself. What we should do is take preparatory steps as early as possible.

If we can’t predict what will matter in the future, we should at least know what to do to stay afloat in the stormy seas of business.

On-demand access

The success of Uber seemed to come from nowhere, yet it speaks to the growth of consumer expectation in the age of the internet.

Uber, a ride-sharing app, connects users who need a taxi service with available drivers. With a tap of a button, users can summon a taxi to a specific location, enter their destination and calculate how much their trip will cost. The app also allows users to locate the taxi. All of this speaks to the new “on-demand” economy.  As Forbes notes:

“The on-demand economy is all about ‘now’ and ‘transparency.’ I need my taxi now; I don’t want to pick up the phone to call or raise my hand to flag down a vehicle. Don’t tell me when my cab will arrive; show me on a map how far away it is.”

Naturally, not all services can easily be applied to the Uber model. However, there are properties it embodies which can benefit all modern businesses. Note, as Forbes did, the notion of “now” and “transparency”. By focusing on these two aspects, almost all businesses can benefit.

Immediacy

With the rapid pace of life today, consumers expect services and products immediately. Of course, it might not be realistic given services take time, products must be shipped and so on. However, immediacy can still be a factor in how we handle customers.

As we’ve all become more connected, this has played into shaping what customer-business relationships look like. Customers believe they should and can get something immediately. As Marketing Tech notes: “Living in this culture of immediacy, customers expect more from brands and can very quickly become disgruntled if access to a service becomes unexpectedly delayed.”

To solve this, businesses must learn how to navigate social media spaces, especially in learning how to respond to customer complaints and demands. Immediacy doesn’t have to mean giving customers the product, but giving them your time and attention. This could mean employing someone full time to answer emails and complaints. Customers know they can get an immediate response and, often, that’s all they want.

Ideally, we want customers to reach a point of sale, not frustration.

Transparency

Feeding into immediacy, customers want to know precisely what’s happening. By having answers, many businesses can usually prevent complaints from going too far. Customers can be persuaded to understand if situations are beyond your control. Often they merely want to know what is happening to their money or project.

Recognise customers prefer information rather than silence. The on-demand economy may have brought that to the front, but it didn’t create this desire out of nothing. It’s always been there. Now it’s time for businesses to respond.

Why businesses must get rid of paper

The world has moved so rapidly over the last decade, it’s hard to believe where we are. Businesses everywhere have had to shift in their perspective. The way we promote ourselves, our products and our services has shifted, too. But we also need to look internally and businesses must think hard about how they operate.

One area often overlooked is how businesses are still using paper. Though this might sound initially quite irrelevant, it speaks to wider concerns.

Paper is inefficient

One of the most important areas for a business is improving its efficiency. We don’t only need the right tools for the job, but the best ones. Consider how this applies to issues like reports.

To avoid lawsuits and other negative responses, businesses must keep a detailed record of their activities. Staff must fill in certain paperwork that goes on file, ready to be pulled out at a moment’s notice for whomever needs it. Paper, however, is unreliable.

First, people can skip areas they find confusing. They might hand a report in, ready to question it and get guidance. Often, however, they’ll think confusing sections don’t apply. This leaves you with incomplete forms.

Second, getting those forms filled out properly due to errors like this takes time. And time, for others, is a hindrance. As Omadi warns:

“Delayed reporting can damage your relationship with the property manager or owners that you service. They, too, are accustomed to instant access to information. If your reporting process is not timely, then you may lose clients, especially if there is an incident and the property manager or property owner needs information.”

By going digital, you can immediately access filled-out forms. You also can set parameters whereby people can’t ignore sections of a form – for example, they can’t hit the “Submit” button until specific sections are filled out. You can’t write programs into paper, after all.

Data can exist everywhere

As we’ve noted, filling in things digitally is speedy, more reliable and therefore a quicker method than paper. Yet, the other major advantage is you’re not relying on only one source. Captured data can be saved, copied and transferred multiple times.

You don’t need that original piece of paper, since the information exists only as data. You can use advanced software, like electronic signature software, to certify the documents, too.

Digital is greener

Though there is still some debate about how much greener digital is than paper, there’s little doubt it can be. Instead of using endless pages due to errors, we can simply erase on our laptops or tablets. We don’t need to draw with actual brushes, but use digital pens and large monitors.

Digital also allows us to communicate instantly with anyone. We reduce meeting and travel times, because we don’t need to be in the same office to have meetings! Even here, digital shows itself to be greener.

We can see that digital is more efficient, faster and more reliable than paper in the modern office. It’s time for all of us to make that change.

How to sell green ideas

Everyone wants the world to be better. The various problems, however, seem so vast many struggle to care. While individuals can’t necessarily change the world, there are many ways groups of people can. Whether we mean individual companies or cities, change can occur and it’s a matter of finding ways to convince people to join. We see this in election campaigns, volunteer organisations and so on.

However, our current focus is on the environment and what businesses and cities can do to help promote a better world.

Why should businesses care about the environment?

For some time, many polls have shown people don’t care about the environment. This is particularly the case in affluent nations, where – as some have argued – the very systems that led to environmental disaster also created wealth. The task is difficult then: How do we you convince people to rethink or give up the very methods that led to their countries being wealthy?

Businesses must recognise there’s nothing totally at odds with profit-making.

Caring about the environment benefits businesses in numerous ways. There are many documents listing areas where taking an eco-friendly approach results in businesses succeeding. In other words, to convince businesses to be more green, we must convey that eco-friendly savings is business savings.

As Business Insider notes:

“Since 2008, [one program and its fellows] uncovered energy efficiency opportunities — from changing light bulbs to replacing old computers — that would save $1 billion in net operational costs over project lifetimes.”

There are all sorts of ways focusing on saving the environment also means saving on your expenses. Businesses should care because it benefits their bottom line.

Cities should follow green business

Similarly, this applies to cities. No matter the service, whether it’s light fixing or roadside assistance, all benefit from taking a greener approach. Indeed, entire small villages have emerged to cater to such demands. This happens in America and even in Africa.

Cape Town, for example, is seeing the African continent’s first car-free village. Called Blue Rock Village, the focus is on “the principles of open spaces, environmental sustainability, well-being and car free living.” It’s an enormous investment, but one that aims to create a more green lifestyle, for those who want it.

Though the focus is on being without cars, it speaks to a larger idea of reducing transport times. Reducing how long people spend on the road means improving the environment. But, again, notice that no one wants to spend hours travelling to work. It benefits both the individual as a business person, as well as the environment.

Though most businesses probably can’t support such a move, that doesn’t mean they can’t make similar steps. For example, businesses can’t eliminate commuting but can plan for working from home or reducing the number of days required to be in the office. Businesses can also switch to greener products and teach staff about recycling. Again, most of these benefit the business as well as the environment.

To convince businesses and cities to start being greener, we simply need to show how they benefit in large and small ways.

 

Essential tips for managing your first project

Every business outlines goals with projects. These are merely codified paths toward a goal that benefits a business, taking into account resources and an end date. Projects can, of course, fail or turn out to be a waste of time. But, ideally, all are about doing well by the business. What we need to do is figure out efficient ways to manage these projects.

Examining failure

It might be a good idea to examine how projects fail. TechRepublic describes a few nightmare scenarios. For example, a toy retailer wanted to create a doll able to play pre-recorded music at the touch of a button. The music would be stored on a chip.

As they note:

“The problem was that the computer chips containing the music were sourced from Asia, and at the time there was a longshoremen’s strike on the west coast that held up delivery beyond the holiday season. The consequence? An unsuccessful project and several million dolls that sat in a warehouse unsold.”

How do such things happen? Here it was oversight no one considered: the international situation of foreign suppliers. Other projects fail when they’re entirely reliant on skills only one person has. If this person leaves, the project will fail. Projects go bust because the budget has been miscalculated. They fail because the resources are inappropriate or the interest has dissolved in the product or service being offered.  

Good projects and project managers will never encounter these issues.

What makes good project management?

As most project management training will show, you need to have all your bases covered.

Key to a project’s success is having the right team. As research constantly shows, having a diverse team is key to that. People from different backgrounds – identities, interests, skills, qualifications and so on – all serve to round out overall knowledge. It’s gaps in knowledge which often lead to miscalculation and mistakes.

For example, if the toy company had someone with an interest in international affairs, or the Asian market in particular, there’s a chance they would not have invested in those particular chips for recording sound.

Equally important is having a Plan B. If you have a particularly important project, you can’t predict what might happen in the world. You can have the most diverse team in the industry, but not see, say, a natural disaster negatively impacting a market. By putting all your eggs in one basket, you stand to lose everything – even if you’re certain you stand to gain the world. Spare some resources for alternate plans should your current project fail. Set up an entirely different team. Or, better yet, have multiple projects, all of which benefit but none that will threaten the business.

It’s also essential to regularly check in with where everyone is. This is also where communication comes in. By having a firm grasp on the project’s current state, you prevent potential disasters.

(image source: Flickr)

Is your employer is spying on you?

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Workplace monitoring is not a crime. After all, companies make use of CCTV footage to reduce incidents of theft and sabotage in the workplace. But what if there is more to it than merely keeping an eye on potential crime. What if the eye in the sky is secretly monitoring everything you do? This certainly screams an invasion of privacy, but how would you even be aware of being spied upon?

 

Thanks to the latest technological advancements, employers can track their employees’ every move, whether digitally or anywhere else on the premises. This means that your boss may not need a video wall controller to monitor you. The thing about this modern technology is that it’s making it increasing difficult for employees to tell if they’re being watched.

 

Being called out for a conversation

 

The red flags should go off the moment your employer calls you out for a  conversation you thought was private. It could mean one of two things; your have a  tattletale co-worker or you’re being spied on through employers scanning your email, monitoring text messages you send on your work-issued device or recording your phone conversations. It’s not unlikely if you find that your company installed key-logging program or a monitoring software on your work computer. Such software can also track what you’re saying in your personal emails. Quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it. Your company owns the content in their internal email systems and they have the authority to monitor what you write and to whom.

 

Your employer knows an awful lot about your personal life

 

You’re at the water cooler when your boss walks by and says, “I’m also going to the Cubana festival.” You nod your head and utter, “yeah, me too.” But before you could ask how he knows, he has already left the office.

 

It’s not uncommon for employers to check out their employees social media profiles such as  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The thought of employers stalking your profile may seem a bit creepy, but by doing so they can establish whether you’re being faithful to the company or not. Unfortunately many employees have had disciplinary action taken against them or have been fired for posting inappropriate photos and comments online. To know whether or not you’re postings are free of malicious speech, download the Clear app to scan your social media profiles for anything that might get you in trouble.