We take a further look back at some of the articles published over the last 10 months, each with a short summary once again and in a format to help you decide quickly which ones might be worth a second visit.
1 Choices: AWS v Azure v Google Cloud
This article gives an brief overview of the differences between each of the three main cloud providers, AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud as well as an insight into the services they provide.
In particular we look at:
• Market shares and growth rates
• Global availability
• Customer base
• Services provided by each company
• A comparison of pricing
Each of the market leaders, and the many providers that follow behind them, have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is important to choose the right cloud vendor, in other words the best-suited cloud provider according to the needs of your own organisation.
2 Team collaboration software – do I really need it?
This article considers team collaboration software which is the key to unlocking productivity and efficiency. It enables the sharing, processing and management of data, documents and files between team members. Put simply, it makes communication transparent, allowing teams to work together on joint projects and share resources.
Reasons for changing include the following:
1. Saving time
2. Facilitating teamwork, and
3. Improving organisation
Collaboration software, when carefully chosen, will save significant amounts of time, avoid confusion and increase trust through improved transparency. It will also increase productivity, improve communication and generally empower a team to achieve more by working closer together. If you want to discover some of the more important things you should be looking for when choosing such software, also take a look at our article: “Email collaboration software: must haves”,
3 Workflows Part 1 – how to optimise them
The optimisation of workflows – essentially the elimination of wasted time and resources, reducing costs and increasing productivity – is one aspect of workflow management that is essential if you intend to stay ahead of your competitors. Doing so will also help to create an environment in which your team will work to the best of its ability, thereby further contributing to business success.
In this, the first of four articles on the subject of workflows, we take a general look at workflow efficiency and improvement potential, then suggest a structured approach that can be adopted to optimise workflows.
Watch out for the warning signs of inefficiencies, namely:
1. Excessive time spent on manual tasks
2. Increasing costs
3. Challenges when scaling
4. Reliance on spreadsheets
5. Difficulties with price competitiveness
6. Dated systems and software
7. Missed deadlines and targets
8. Losing customers
By measuring workflow efficiency a baseline can be established from which improvements can be made, and after that, the same metrics used to monitor subsequent progress. The measure we look at in particular is “flow efficiency”.
There are, of course, an almost infinite number of ways inefficiencies can arise, some of which include the following:
1. Repetition, where the same steps in a process are duplicated by different individuals or departments
2. No longer needed or unnecessary tasks
3. Too many decision makers in a process
4. Low employee morale and skill levels
5. Bottlenecks, for example with new technology, or work flowing unnecessarily through a particular department or individual
6. The existence of silos, e.g. data not being shared or by systems not talking to each other
7. A lack of understanding of processes
The key to making improvements that have a significant impact on your bottom line, addressing the issues that slow a workflow down, is to adopt a structured approach, to conduct investigations in advance, rather than as retrospective troubleshooting, doing this on a regular basis and routinely reviewing the results. The following represents such an approach:
1. Establish the existing workflow, its triggers, actions and goal
2. Understand how efficient the workflow currently is by considering costs, duration and, for example, calculating the flow efficiency ratio we refer to elsewhere in the article
3. Identify obstacles to the flow, and understand what is causing them
4. Identify changes that have the potential to improve efficiency, testing each to see whether they will achieve the desired objective, and at the same time get feedback from the individuals involved so that fine tuning of the proposed changes can take place
5. Implement the changes, ensuring everyone at every stage is fully informed and trained as necessary, and finally
6. Monitor the results on a regular basis and fine tune where appropriate
As can be seen, workflow optimisation essentially amounts to common sense, is relatively easy to perform and is capable of delivering significant results.
4 Reducing time spent on emails
Email is here to stay and its use continues to grow. So what can be done about the daily torrent of emails? In this article we look at how a mailbox can be automated to relieve the pressure.
Automation lets repetitive tasks be handled by your email software, without needing immediate user intervention, delaying it until incoming and outgoing emails have been processed in such a way that will minimise the time taken to deal with those that are important.
There are a number of ways to automate the processing of emails, including the use of
1. AI products, such as CompassPulse
2. Keywords and tags
3. Email templates
5. Colour coding
6. Automated notifications
7. Message rules
Once in place, the time saved by using automation – which can be very significant with high volumes of emails – means resources can be reallocated from administrative tasks to those activities that will contribute more to the overall performance of an organisation.
5 Workflows Part 2 – implementing workflow management
In this article we look at workflow management generally, how it is implemented and how it differs to business process management and project management.
Before a workflow management system can be selected and implemented, an understanding of what parts of the business are to be managed is needed, in other words to then be streamlined, automated etc. This will allow the system to be adapted to meet specific requirements, and are likely to include the following:
1. Human resources, getting the best out of your personnel, which will mean automating and managing tasks in order to allow staff to focus on those activities that add the most value
2. Efficient use of time, the objective being to eliminate time wasting, to manage time in such a way as to maximise productivity
3. Customer relationships: an effective management system will assist in increasing sales and reporting thereon, and also provide business insights and strengthen the management of sales staff
4. Teamwork: centralising processes will enhance collaboration
5. Financial management in order to manage costs and payments, revenue and debt collection as well as monitor the financial performance of the business
Once the requirements are known, the question then is how to choose between the many different applications available? Things to look out for include
1. A design tool that is easy to use
2. Good integration with other applications
3. A design that facilitates collaboration
4. Software support
5. Cloud based (if appropriate)
6. Strong reporting features
7. Good access controls and security
8. The total cost of ownership
The successful implementation of a workflow management system will result in multiple benefits to an organisation – with careful choice, a system that can handle all your particular needs, will most definitely add value to a business.
6 Handling email mistakes
We’ve all done it, sent an email to the wrong person, maybe pressed “send” too soon. In this article we look at some of the more common mistakes, what can be done about them if they occur and discover that CompassAir email software has a number of built-in safety features including
1. Default reply options
2. Delayed sending
3. Internal v external emails
By its very nature, using email means that mistakes can happen very quickly. Having a rough idea of what can be done should any of the types of mistake we discuss happen and, when possible, by adjusting the settings or using the features that come with your software this will reduce the risk of mistakes happening in the first place.
7 Workflows Part 3 – processing SnP Purchase Enquiries
In our third part of the workflow series of articles we look at Sale and Purchase broking in more detail, in this case the processing of Purchase Enquiries.
We consider a number of different scenarios when dealing with P/Es, each depending on what the broker is trying to achieve, and the ways CompassAir can be used. This necessarily short selection of workflow examples – of course, there are many more that are best examined by means of an online demonstration – is investigated both with and without the use of our software, comparing the impact on workflows and the value CompassAir can add through speeding up processes and helping you stay ahead of your competitors.
The scenarios we look at are
1. Responding to a P/E by proposing one or more ships
2. Responding to a P/E with a list of ships
3. Searching for matching ships manually
4. Circulating a P/E, and
5. Finding P/Es received during a given time period
When developing software, our goal is to ensure that, in addition to information being easily and readily to hand, skilled professionals waste no time with repetitive tasks that can instead be automated and so carried out in a consistently fast and accurate manner, thus maximising the time available for activities which add the most value.
When such automation is introduced, actions take place instantaneously, meaning a broker will be given the ability to respond to opportunities in advance of his or her competitors – an invaluable competitive edge.
8 How to reduce email noise
It won’t come as any surprise to hear that trying to keep up with email traffic makes it difficult for people to achieve their goals. In this article we consider some practical steps as well as some smart automation to help reduce email noise.