Cloud Smes Digital Transformation Microsoft

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Est. reading time: 9 minutes
Author: Steph Locke

Pressure to be more efficient has never been greater. The good news is there are so many helpful time-saving software as a service tools out there! We’ve made a list of some of the best.

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Steph Locke

Technologist and consultant with a track record of delivering transformation of businesses into data science and AI companies.

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We’re entering the age of AI. Most companies are currently focused on bringing it into their operations and becoming more reliant on it. This is a great strategy in the long term but there are also ways you can reap immediate benefits. There are many brilliant software as a service tools which can help increase staff efficiency. It’s possible to save as much as £4000 per month from a budget of £100. If that sounds too good to be true then read on to find out how this is possible!

I’ve put together a list of some great tools to save you time. These are all based on good quality tech fundamentals or AI.

Leverage your existing Microsoft 365 for up to £3,000 of gains

Here’s some of the tools already available with Microsoft 365 that you can leverage to increase efficiency and save staff time. You could even save as much as £3000!

1. No more meeting minutes with transcriptions available in Teams

Transcriptions mean you no longer have to rely on someone to record the minutes of meetings. This means everyone can give the meeting their full attention and often that things can proceed at a faster pace.

2. Reduce meeting or field services arrangements with Microsoft Booking

Microsoft Booking streamlines booking arrangements. You can book appointments with a click and both sides will be notified with the date added to their calendar.

3. Add locations, floor plans, questions, jargons to Office 365 to help people find information more easily

Having important information easily available in one accessible place makes things considerably easier for everyone. It removes the stress of having to find things and saves significant staff time over long periods.

4. Create a Microsoft Team for quality management or learning & development

Microsoft Teams is a fantastic app for collaboration. Putting it into use for quality management or learning and development are both excellent uses. Both require easy communication which the app provides while its functions such as taskboards, wikis and projects are perfect. They also cut out a lot of unnecessary back and for between team members.

5. Use Microsoft Kaizala to allow your employees to chat and organise securely

Being able to chat and organise securely and safely is very important in modern business. Communication via email, while still necessary, is too slow and inefficient to be the primary form of communication in most organisations' day to day operations. Instant messaging is far more efficient and allows colleagues to get quick responses to queries without having to wait long periods for replies.

6. Use Microsoft Forms to create data entry solutions

Having a dedicated data entry method ensures consistency and keeps everyone on the same page. If data entry is always carried out in the same place it can help save significant time in the long run.

7. Use Microsoft Planner for planning and collaboration that is also connected to Outlook Tasks

Using tools that people can easily access to collaborate and plan with each other in real time can work wonders for saving staff time. Connecting Planner to Outlook tasks also ensures colleagues can view each other’s plans and schedules, enabling better organisation and less need for unnecessary emails and messages.

8. Use Microsoft Power Automate Desktop to automate desktop based workflows

Automating workflows is a great way to save staff time. Any repetitive tasks are worth automating. The savings may be small but they add up to a lot in the bigger picture.

9. Create a Yammer community for specific subsets of your workforce so they can share information securely.

This option allows your staff to securely communicate within teams or projects in an accessible and interactive way.

10. Analyse any data from Azure Data Lake Storage & Analytics, Power BI or other sources in real-time with SharePoint Online Delve

Analysing data in real-time is significantly more efficient than sharing through email or similar methods. Not only does this cut out response times this enables multiple people to view and collaborate over the analysis such as via a video call.

11. Enable advanced security features such as conditional access policies on all devices but only key apps e.g Google Docs within the company network using Intune device management software

Using advanced security features with Intune device management software allows you to implement conditional access policies to certain members of staff. This gives you control over who can access what and removes the need to grant access to staff each time an individual document needs to be shared.

12. Increase employee productivity by creating workflows against business applications like Dynamics 365 through Power Automate which you can use alongside the likes of Slack and Jira Cloud etc

Integrating apps together with workflows is a brilliant way to streamline repetitive processes. Get this right and you can save significant time in the long term.

Spend £100 or less per user with Microsoft for up to £4,000 gains

Sometimes it might be worth spending a little bit more to unlock even more savings. Here’s how you could spend more on Microsoft products to gain more time.

1. Track KPIs and goals with Microsoft Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is a data visualisation tool. This makes tracking goals and KPIs significantly easier than by looking at raw data on spreadsheets. Power BI also provides users with great insights that can inform decision-making processes.

2. Keep track of emails and never lose a sale with a CRM system in Microsoft Dynamics

CRM systems are a vital part of most companies' sales strategies. They keep customer information organised in a single, centralised location. This saves significant time as information is kept up to date and no one will ever have to look around for data. Microsoft Dynamics offers a highly customisable CRM system with a wide range of potential features.

3. Use SharePoint document intelligence to extract information from PDFs and other digital forms

This is a great way to save time. No more trawling through long and boring PDF’s. With Sharepoint document intelligence, you can use tools like cognitive analysis to process any texts for sentiment or key phrases.

4. Use Microsoft Power Apps Portals to make a self-service supplier portal

Streamline your supplier management with this neat option. This makes life easier for both you and your suppliers and gives you the ability to be more organised and reduce your administrative workload.

5. Use Microsoft 365 Project to enable real time collaboration

Microsoft Project is a great option that you can implement for no more than £41.50 a month. This project management tool is simple but offers a wide range of features including five tools, pre-built templates and various views. It also has built-in Power BI integration so that you can visualise as you plan and get rich insights into projects.

6. Keep everyone connected with Microsoft Viva

Microsoft Viva was released in February 2021. It’s an employee experience platform that aims to harness knowledge, experience and expertise within companies to improve learning and upskilling and keep people connected and informed. While this doesn’t save time in the direct sense like the other options, improvements in these areas can indirectly improve operational efficiency. Microsoft Viva also includes ‘Viva insights’, which is designed to help people improve productivity and well being through data-driven, privacy-protected insights.

Spend £100 or less per month elsewhere for up to £3,000 gains

Here are some other great companies you can spend with to save time.

1. Create a product catalogue with Enspan

Enspan is a great company that offers various supply chain solutions. At mycatalogue.io you can easily create a branded product catalogue and portal which you can publish on your site. You don’t have to worry about designing anything yourself, saving a significant amount of time.

2. Use Slack for quick internal communications

Unlike a lot of items in these lists, Slack actually has great free capabilities so it can actually cost you a lot less than £100. Slack is a great way your team can stay in touch while they work. As touched on above instant communication is much more efficient than email and the ability to make group chats can be a great feature for teams working on projects together.

3. Schedule your social media posts with MeetEdgar

Scheduling social media posts means your marketers can get posts written in bulk. This leaves them with plenty of time to focus on high value tasks without having to tweet or make Facebook posts constantly throughout the day. While there are many social scheduling apps, MeetEdgar is a very affordable and easy to use scheduling solution.

4. Streamline to-do’s and build projects with Asana

Asana is a project management application that is perfect for busy teams with complex projects or lengthy to-do lists. Asana also has automation functionality that lets you automate workflows so that you can focus on the stuff that really matters.

5. Connect apps and automate workflows with Zapier

Zapier lets you connect apps and automate workflows between them. This allows you to streamline processes and easily exchange information between different applications. It has great time saving potential - all with no code required.

6. Use Buffer to schedule your social media

Much like MeetEdgar, Buffer is a social media scheduling app. It’s a bit more on the pricey side but offers a range of extra features and arguably a better UI. It may be a better option for larger organisations.

7. Make project management easier with Trello

Trello is another project management tool based on ‘boards’. Boards can be seen from multiple views and users add lists and cards to boards to add to a project. It actually comes with a free version that supports unlimited users which is great. The only limitation here is the number of boards and storage which might require an upgrade for large or busy teams.

8. Choose from a range of automation options with Bitrix24

Bitrix24 have a diverse suite of tools on offer for an affordable price. Targeted specifically at small businesses, they even have a free account that supports up to 12 users and 5GB storage.

9. Choose from 45 tools with Zoho

Zoho’s diverse range of software covers pretty much every area of business you can think of. In fact, they have over 45 tools that can help your staff operate more efficiently. Prices vary but there are a lot of tools that start from £100 and under and many of them let you get started for free.

Get started saving time with SaaS

As you can see, there are so many great apps and services you can use to save valuable staff time. Most of these examples are inexpensive and the savings they can yield usually provide a great return on investment.

I hope this list has given you an idea of some of the great software as a service tools that are out there. Of course, everyone has different needs so not all of these tools will be for you. You’ll know better than anyone what areas you most need to improve. The list certainly isn’t exhaustive either. There are many more great options out there. Alternatively, your staff could even develop their own tools, you don’t even need to be able to code to make useful time-saving apps.

Get started with AI

Improve processes across your business

Talk to an expert