The merciless transition from global pandemic to cost of living crisis has left businesses reeling. The destabilisation of the economic climate has resulted in firms scrambling for penny-pinching solutions to keep themselves afloat.
A large proportion of businesses have felt the damaging effects of the pandemic, with recent research revealing that 87% of small business owners have lost money over the last two years. Additionally, recent ONS statistics outline the ramifications of the cost-of-living crisis, with 46% of firms naming inflation or energy prices as the greatest threat to their prosperity.
However, alongside this adversity comes the prospect of new opportunities. Out of necessity, businesses are adapting and intensifying their search for practices that will minimise costs and improve efficiency. Therefore, when this turbulent period eventually eases, organisations will have improved their operating models, leaving them poised to thrive in a more favourable business landscape.
Vendors are also finding ways to capitalise on this volatility and uncertainty. They are developing solutions to improve the efficiency of everyday business functions, marketing these to fellow companies to lower costs overall. This often involves the digitisation of processes, which is key to speeding up everyday functions and ensuring established procedures do not become outdated.
This has resulted in a trend of disruption, whereby a product, service, or solution disturbs the rules of an already established market. Such interventions are necessary and welcome as they aim to innovate, encouraging outside-the-box solutions that provide a lifeline to businesses trying to manage costs.
Organisations can either view recent global disruptions as a death sentence or as a chance to embrace a new, more productive era of working. Therefore, which steps can businesses take to weather the current storm and equip themselves for future success?
In most cases, businesses do not have the capacity, time, or funds to implement and develop innovations to improve functionality. Fortunately, the rise to prominence of Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions means they do not have to.
Usually taking the form of APIs run through the cloud and accessed via desktop and mobile devices, the era of remote work triggered by the pandemic has accelerated the growth of the SaaS industry. The market is estimated to reach $208 billion (£179 billion) by 2023, an increase of $56 billion in just two years.
Information management software is a prime example of a cloud-based SaaS solution boosting efficiency. Businesses are ditching filing cabinets and moving files online, saving time previously spent sifting through documents and ensuring everyone is working on the most up-to-date file version. This is particularly important for businesses implementing hybrid working models, which risk trapping information in filing cabinets or data silos if they persist with anachronistic storage methods.
Additionally, when liquidity is critical and cash flow is key, SaaS solutions combined with automated processes can improve efficiency, reduce human error and enhance financial management.
Cutting costs with automation
The popularity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions is multiplying, with 35% of companies reporting the use of AI in their business and an additional 42% stating they are exploring AI.
In its current capacity, AI cannot complete complex tasks that rely heavily on problem-solving skills. However, this technology is starting to thrive as a cost management tool for administrative activities, freeing up time for workers to focus on projects which add genuine value to the business.
Automating tasks by embracing innovations will lower costs and improve efficiency, helping businesses ease the strain placed on them by economic uncertainty. Such an approach will also eliminate the cost of human error from repetitive work, improving the quality of service offered and eliminating mistakes that may have previously impacted customers or clients.
Minimising staff turnover
Alongside suffocating cost pressures, businesses also have a significant skills shortage to contend with, as 3 in 4 organisations have reported difficulty hiring – a 16-year high. Therefore, it is pivotal that companies take steps to retain staff, thus ensuring they are not suddenly left with a sea of vacancies.
Thorough training should be a top priority for organisations seeking to reduce staff turnover, as employees feeling secure and knowledgeable will go a long way to improving their overall happiness and wellbeing.
Businesses should also consider diversifying their training methods and multiskilling employees to fill vacancies. If workers can complete various tasks, organisations will have fewer difficulties addressing skills shortages as employees will transfer seamlessly between teams.
Overall, disruption is an undeniable threat to the growth and survival of businesses, particularly when experienced at the unprecedented level companies have faced in recent years. However, with these challenges comes the requirement for adaptation, accelerating the pace with which everyday business practices evolve.
Constant review of efficiency via process evaluation and in turn, cost control, will enable businesses to thrive during hard times. Importantly, they will be in a far better position to exploit opportunity when conditions improve.