Business Automation Through Technology Part II

How to make your business smarter and more efficient

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Bill Gates

As you read in our first in the series of Business Automation blog posts, business automation is taking tasks within your business that are repetitive, and having someone or something do them automatically. In continuation of the series, we’re going to dig a little deeper into what else you can do with business automation within your business.

Once you have identified what your always and your every’s in your business that are possible to automate within a technical aspect, the next step is to dig into those tasks further to break them down. Ideally, you will have more than just a couple of tasks that you can automate within your business. 

Identifying Multiple Tasks Within Your Business

If you own a restaurant, and you wanted to start doing proactive marketing. You start to look back on customers that visited your restaurant for Valentine’s day and you want to send them a special coupon for them to come back and visit. Or you have a list of customers who have purchased gift cards, and a holiday is approaching and you want to reach out to those customers and promote a gift card special that you are having. It could also be you wanting to reach out to new customers to visit your restaurant, so you want to automate an email every Wednesday at 12pm you want to remind everyone of your happy hour special from 2-6pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

Categorize Your Tasks

It could also be identifying areas that you’d like to improve, such as making sure you are properly staffed for busy times of the day, or automatically ordering your supplies and food when inventory starts to get low. Once you identify a large list of items in your business that you could potentially automate, start looking at grouping them in categories, ie. financial, marketing, managing vendors, etc. 

Once you start grouping your tasks, take a look at them and start asking yourself what technology systems that you use to manage each task, ie. scheduling software, email, payroll systems, credit card processors, point of sale systems. When you have your list established, you will start looking to hire someone with a technology background or someone who is comfortable with the systems and digging into what they are capable of doing for your business. This will get you into the third step of business automation, so keep an eye out for your next blog post in the series.

Interested in Business Automation for your company?

By identifying where you can automate parts of you business, you can in turn have higher productivity, increase performance, and help to reduce your operating costs. Think that you have an area in your business that could be automated, but need some help with the technical side of it? Contact us to chat about it!

Business Automation Through Technology

How to make your business smarter and more efficient

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Bill Gates

What exactly is business automation?

Business automation is taking tasks within your business that are repetitive, and having someone or something do them automatically. For example, you may send a reminder to your customers after their invoices are more than 30 days late, or you follow up with a customer 5 days after they visited your restaurant and you send them a customer satisfaction survey.

You may even add in a little business intelligence in there as well. For a positive survey that a customer left you you may ask them to leave you a positive Google Review, and for a negative survey response, you would send them a coupon for 20% off their next meal. These are just some small examples of business automation in your company.

What is the first step of business automation?

First, you need to identify some of the areas where you can automate your business, and where it can actually help you make smarter business decisions. We suggest you look at your Always & your Everys.

Find out in your business where you, or someone on your team, says the phrase: “When x happens, I always do y.” A great example of this would be, “whenever a customers invoice is more than 30 days overdue, I always send out a reminder email.” Or, it would be, “whenever a customer’s invoice is 45 days overdue, I always resend the reminder email, with a $100 late fee attached.”

Where can technology help you with the Always & the Everys?

If you already are using accounting software, or your website already collects customer satisfaction surveys – those are already great areas where you can automate your business.

Some areas are less obvious than others though. We had a customer in the utility and rental space, and whenever one of their tenants had a leaky pipe, they wanted to create a warning to flag their maintenance department that there was a problem.

Their question was, how can a computer system figure out that a pipe has physically broken or that a pipe has developed a leak? Those are areas where you are not exactly sure if technology can help out your business. The solution that we found was, as a proxy for determining if a pipe has physically broken, we can determine if their water meter has used a significant amounts more water (whatever the threshold that you set would be) then it will send an email to the customer that their water bill has increase by 20%.

By identifying where you can automate parts of you business, you can in turn have higher productivity, increase performance, and help to reduce your operating costs. Think that you have an area in your business that could be automated, but need some help with the technical side of it? Contact us to chat about it!

Meet the Team: Eric

In this blog series, we’ll be featuring our staff here at Switchbox Inc. to give you a little more insight into what it’s like to work here, and all the interesting stuff that our team gets up to! Next up is our Director of Development, Eric!

Company Role: Director of Development for .NET

Eric & Joel at Eric’s Daughter’s 1st Birthday Party

What do you do at Switchbox?

I get to wear multiple hats as a Director in a small firm like Switchbox. However my specific role is to lead a team of developers while also being hands on with a number of projects. I have to make sure that projects are running smoothly throughout the SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle). I also get to lead a few projects where I get to work with the client directly and help build their application with the team. The best part is that I get to work with some of the smartest and talented people while trying to solve business problems and challenges using software as a solution.

What is your favorite memory at Switchbox? 

Hanging out with the team during the company GGOB trip at Universal Studios.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?  

Latest Top Gun: Maverick

Bachelor in Paradise – a great mindless drama

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

Basketball, car detailing and gets my mind off of things, short term reward that you get to enjoy the finished product

Your favorite thing about working at Switchbox?

It’s never boring, and I get to work with many clients, many projects, and many business problems/challenges. You get to apply your skills against many different industries, and get to meet so many different people. Putting perspective into what problem that they are facing, and helping them figure out how to solve it.

Meet the Team: Tommy

In this blog series, we’ll be featuring our staff here at Switchbox Inc. to give you a little more insight into what it’s like to work here, and all the interesting stuff that our team gets up to! Next up is our PO, Tommy!

Company Role: Product Owner

Switchbox Board Game Nights

What do you do at Switchbox?

All the things. I lead projects, and am the point of contact for all client communications, and heavily do account management. I tend to wear a lot of different hats here, but the biggest role I do is project management – building out the project timelines, working with the development team, getting the project, gathering requirements.

What is your favorite memory at Switchbox? 

Oh that’s a hard one to come up with. The Universal Studios trip in the beginning 2019 for GGOB. All of us were hanging out in our Director’s hotel room playing card and board games. Everyone was having a really good night, at the end of it we realized we had had lost our other Director somewhere. We found him hiding in the closet, playing a game of hide and seek by himself. It was much funnier if you were actually there.

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?  

Movie: Grandma’s Boy, but I would also say Step Brothers

TV: Breaking Bad and Stranger Things

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

Wood working and working on cars in my workshop, mountain biking, anything really doing with the outdoors, concerts. Board gaming

Playing with my 3 Boston Terriers – Lily, Lupin, Bellatrix

Your favorite thing about working at Switchbox?

That’s easy, the people. The friends and work family that I’ve established over the 5 years that I’ve worked here. Longevity in the staff, while also making you feel welcomed from the first day that you start.

Meet the Team: Joel Stephens

In this new blog series, we’ll be featuring our staff here at Switchbox Inc. to give you a little more insight into what it’s like to work here, and all the interesting stuff that our team gets up to! First up is our CEO and Founder, Joel Stephens.

Joel flying with his wife Megan, and daughters Sawyer and Sullivan

What do you do at Switchbox?

I do a lot of different things here at Switchbox, but creating a vision where tech is moving and that intersection with what our clients need is a large portion of what I do. As well as cultivating the team culture, making sure our team is taken care of, and how to make it even better. I basically got to create a company that I love to go to work everyday. 

On the daily list, I’m usually interacting with clients, and getting to know a wide range of people. Giving them suggestions & ideas to help their visions come to life. Helping them to be successful in their own businesses. Sometimes the largest changes in organizations don’t have to be expensive and time consuming, if you know the right thing that needs to be done, a small change can have a massive impact. 

What is your favorite memory at Switchbox? 

Working on a project right when I started Switchbox, which was launching a medical tracking application that improved the quality of medical care for 50,000 patients a year.  A lot of these patients that have diabetes & hypertension, which were very treatable, but the average person was only able to be seen every 6 weeks vs. every 2 weeks when they should be coming in. There was a huge gap in the scheduling because the administration staff was relying on memory vs. looking back on the data. This software enabled them to be able to track when each patient should be coming in for a check up visit.

It was such a cool experience to be able to create and execute a fairly simple application that was able to make a large difference in a huge number of people’s medical care. 10 years after the launch the CDC approached us with a request to review the data, because it was the only system they were aware of with this type of statistics in such a clean format. 

What’s your favorite movie or TV show?  

I barely watch TV and when I do it’s with my kids.  Instead I’ll say that my favorite “be-lazy-and-let-your-mind-go-blank” activity is listening to fiction audio books.  A personal favorite is “The Martian” by Andy Weir.  The movie was good but you really have to read the book.

What do you like to do when you aren’t at work? 

Our family loves family vacations, and that work hard, play hard mentality. In 2020 I got my private pilot’s license, as well as high performance endorsement. Some of my other hobbies include scuba diving, BMW race school, recreational home remodeling, and camping. I also love to take long morning walks to start my day.

HR and Cyber Security

HR & Cyber Security, Basics You Should Know

As a department in your company, Human Resources has a lot of responsibilities, not to mention access to confidential information for your employees. This makes it all the more important to make sure that you are taking the right precautions to protect you and your employees’ information.

Here are just a few ideas on how to protect your company’s information in the HR Department. 

Password Management

In a time when websites, emails, and passwords are easily accessible and hacked into, it is key to that you secure your company’s information with a password management system. There are several systems and companies that provide this service like LastPass or Bitwarden, but what it is is a system that stores your passwords, and requires you to only have one very secure, hard to guess main password to access them all. 

Why do this instead of storing them on Google Chrome or Apple? It is simply less of a risk of them being breached, and if your physical device is stolen, you don’t have to worry about the entirety of your passwords being compromised since they do not live on your machine, and cannot be accessed without that main password.

Device Encryption and Firewall

Speaking of securing your information, it is vital that you ensure that your work computer is secured with a password. That may sound like basic knowledge, but it would surprise you how many people do not put a password on their computer or cell phone, making it a prime target if someone were to get ahold of your device, thus giving them all of the information to your employees and company.

Phishing Emails

Everyone in your company will be susceptible to phishing emails, but no one is in more danger to it than the HR Department. Let’s say that you have an “employee” who sends you an email requesting a change in their direct deposit to a different bank account, but you do not do your due diligence and check the sender’s email address, OR follow up with them via call or Zoom? You have the potential to reroute their paycheck into a scammer’s bank account. 

Or you may click a link in an email that is asking you to verify your account information, which asks you to input your username and password. Turns out, that was a phishing email to get into one of your accounts, and now you are on your way to being hacked.This is why it is so important to regularly be engaged in employee security awareness training, and to know what to look out for in phishing emails across the organization.

These are just a few of the things that you should be on the lookout for to help keep your company’s HR department safe in the cyber security realm.

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium launches The Watering Hole Blog

The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium came to us looking to develop a website dedicated to blogging that would showcase all four of their zoo properties, including The Wilds, Zoombezi Bay, and Safari Golf Club. Aptly named The Watering Hole, the blog website needed one centralized website to communicate about events, news, and provide educational content to their visitors, but with each zoo property individually managing each page. The Columbus Zoo team also needed it to be simple to manage using WordPress, which their marketing team was already experienced with. 

With the development of The Watering Hole, while the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium team wanted each of the four zoo properties to individually manage their own blogs they also wanted the ability to cross tag blog posts between the properties. Each of the zoo property blogs needed to have a WP instance, and a simple yet effective design that gets their message across to the visitors.

The result is a concise, easy to use and manage blog that lets the community know what is new and upcoming with the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, The Wilds, Zoombezi Bay, and Safari Golf Club. You can easily switch between the four zoo properties blog sites, and learn about all of the new events, scientific studies, and fun animal events that are happening!  And who doesn’t love to get to read about what’s new with animals? 

Check out The Watering Hole today to see what is new with The Wilds, Safari Golf Club, Zoombezi Bay, and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium!

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