Improve Your Business by Leveraging the Tools You Already Have

Ask yourself, how many ways can you use a paper clip? 

At a conference I recently attended, one of the speakers asked, “What do you use a paper clip for?” Everyone in the room responded, “To hold papers together.” Pretty obvious answer. He then asked what other ways people had used paper clips. Responses ranged from picking a lock to resetting a power button.

Moral of the story? We’ve all had to be creative when we’ve had a big job to do with just a few tools at our disposal. When you think about the task and the tools you have, do you think, “I have this task to do, but I don’t have the one tool I need, so I guess I have to get a new tool?” Or, do you think, “Hmmm, this tool is designed for task A, but it really could be used for tasks B and C. And if I combine it with another tool, I can also accomplish task D?”

When working with my clients in the security and cleaning industries, I try to leverage the tools and technology they already possess to tackle new projects and tasks. Not only does this save them money, it also saves time and effort because they don’t have to learn something new or reinvent processes they already have in place. Take your software solutions for instance — how can you use it outside of the box to help manage other business tasks?  

Let’s look at an example. A large security contractor had mandatory training for all employees, but they didn’t have a learning management system or another easy way of delivering the training or tracking completion. And, the employees were scattered across the country, so the challenge was even greater. In addition, they were required to report on their compliance for this training.

The first solution involved a video training shown by the local supervisor and employees signing a paper form indicating they received the training, followed by the supervisor updating a spreadsheet with the same data and emailing it to the corporate office.

Everyone understood this process wasn’t optimal, but weren’t sure what alternatives were available. I suggested using the employee portal in eHub, the employee self-service solution from TEAM Software, to post the training video and then use the Quality Assurance module to track completion. Since this client used an integrated ERP like WinTeam, the Quality Assurance data also tied to the Compliance Tracker, making reporting even easier. 

We created a simple template where the employee could check a response that he/she had received the training, captured an electronic signature and then submitted it via eHub. Once the template was sent in, WinTeam updated the compliance code for that employee. This eliminated the messy manual paper process, kept all their information in one system and made tracking and reporting much more efficient — and accurate.

When thinking of multiple tasks on a timeline, not all ERPs have the workflow or similar tools to do that. Consider another client of mine who needed to track business licenses for multiple states. Not only were there steps to contacting the state, filling out paperwork, providing documentation, securing a local person with the proper credentials to represent the company in that state, but these licenses also had to be renewed with similar steps to be repeated for renewal.

By setting up the process in WinTeam with a job for each state, we could track tasks for each state. Once the jobs were set up, we created the necessary tasks, and then set up tickets with scheduled dates for completion in the work scheduling module––which is used to manage recurring and one-time work for janitorial contractors. Once the activity on the ticket was complete, it was marked as done. The calendar feature made this even simpler by giving a longer-range view of what needed to be done, and assigning the tasks to others as needed.

By putting together a new process in an ERP, the company reduced error rates by approximately 30 percent, and they were able to easily report status updates to their upper management. They leveraged a tool they already had in a new way and as a result, they saved money, improved efficiency, reduced errors and improved transparency.

So, the next time you’re faced with a challenge, think about the system you already have. What functionality do you already possess that you could use in a non-traditional way to accomplish your goals? In what other ways can you use your paper clips?