It comes as no surprise that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused temporary disruptions in the businesses of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) across Jamaica. In response to this Optimus, a Business Transformation and Unified Commerce enterprise, participated as a panelist in a major Micrososft sponsored Webinar on April 1, 2020, dedicated to providing business owners with tech solutions to help them keep their businesses up and running during the pandemic.
The Webinar titled “How Businesses Manage Temporary Disruptions” featured a panel-like discussion where experts in their respective fields addressed challenges and solutions for businesses in this rapidly changing world of tech. It also gave viewers an up-close and personal analysis of how these exact solutions were used by one of Optimus customers in Puerto Rico to plan ahead and prevent COVID-19 /Coronavirus from causing a stall in productivity.
Common Issues Across the Business Board
“In moving to more tech-savvy solutions business leaders need to be prepared in not just their immediate responses to COVID-19 but look beyond that and determine how they will catapult their companies towards maintaining greatness,” opened Almando Cox, CEO of ResolveIT Ltd in Jamaica and one of main sponsors of the event. He went on to share some of the common issues companies might need to champion during this time. Some of these were not being able to afford digital solutions to solve their issues, how to manage and support employees who are working remotely/ from home, how to ensure they collaborate on team-work as well as how to ensure transparency and accountability.
Utilizing the Microsoft Power Pact Approach
Microsoft Suite of Applications has the ability to provide small business owners with the solutions they’ve been looking for. When looking at core functions and operations all businesses rely on specific core services. Some of which include communication, access to information and information storage tools, collaboration among employees as well as security and operations tools. To maintain these services while working remotely Rennex Callaghan, a Microsoft Azure Specialist at Intcomex Caribbean recommended Microsoft Teams which is a solution that allows companies and their employees to chat, meet, call, and collaborate all in one place.
“Teams is a very unique tool that allows you access to not just your employees but your customers as well, especially those who are more used to interacting with you face-to-face,” shared Callaghan. “The best part is they don’t need to install anything on their end, all you have to do is send them a link and you’re able to connect with your market.”
The Teams application is diverse and expands into many communications’ imperative functions as well as, managing time and attendance of employees which for some businesses reflects directly on the payroll.
The second application solves the issue of information storage and access, this is Microsoft Azure. One of the features of Azure is that it gives users the opportunity to store company sensitive information virtually, in a cloud. It then allows employees remote access to said information providing that they have internet access.
“Not enough companies are looking at solutions that are cloud-based,” Callaghan commented. “Solutions that are online might be fit the bill for certain companies or might be at a high price point for others and so there is much to consider when choosing the platform that is appropriate for your business; however, more companies should look into this.”
Storing information in a cloud begs the question of security and ensuring the right people have access to sensitive information. There is a solution for that called Microsoft PowerApps, which allows employers to connect with their information storage systems and pull out only the information relevant for their employees to see and use; granting limited and controlled access by sharing the information without moving it from where it is stored.
Another major tool at the disposal of everyone during this pandemic is social media; from the more popular one like Facebook and Instagram to emails, all panelists agreed that use of these tools was essential. But how do you manage them especially if you have customers interacting with you through them? Microsoft Dynamics 365 allows you to connect virtually with your end customers by providing you with information regarding your services and transforming that data into something you find actionable. This could help with quality control, improving customer service, monitoring reviews and opinions of your end customers among other things.
“Our customers in Dynamics have done a great job of continuing operations from remote locations, Hector Negron, the CEO of Optimus commented. “Plus, with the improved integration to Micrososft Office 365 and Teams, especially in the newer version of Dynamics 365 Business Central, companies are seamlessly doing business from anywhere, any device at any time. This is not a future dream, it is mature and here today, running not only globally, but in our backyard, the Caribbean.”
Low-Cost Solutions to Stay Connected: Freemiums
Freemium solutions are services or tools that vendors have made available to users free of charge with the condition of giving them access to some of its features. WaveApps is one such financial software which allows businesses to manage their books and accounting information. Itarian is another example more so for tech-friendly specialists who need to update and manage their devices remotely. For the management of passwords and access to online accounts, panelists recommended LastPass and in leveraging social media they recommend using Hootsuite, Mailchimp to manage and schedule your posts.
In times like these companies are encouraged to be more agile. Though the disruption is temporary these solutions are recommended as long-term applications to propel companies forward. It may be daunting choosing the right one and business owners might venture down a road of trying multiple until they find the “right” one. Businesses like Optimus Business Transformation help companies choose tools that are best suited to their needs much faster.