Managing information overload is not just a big company problem. Small businesses are equally affected by it. However unlike larger businesses, small businesses cannot throw money and resources at the problem. They need to find solutions, which do not strain their resources.
The good news is that once a challenge is clearly identified, small businesses are usually good at finding quick, smart and affordable solutions. So to start the year here is a little post on why sharing information should be one of the most crucial information management challenges that small business should tackle in 2013 …
You as the small business owner control access to a majority of information in your business. Though there is no way around this in the initial years, as your business grows this can start acting as a bottleneck.
As you add more employees to your business you expect them to perform various business functions as well as you did. But do they have access to same amount and quality of information as you do? Can they succeed without it? Definitely not!
Though there are valid reasons for withholding certain information (for e.g. some financial data or passwords etc.), the bulk of the small business information remains inaccessible simply because that is the way it has always been! Security and privacy may seem like the reasons behind this but that is not normally the case. Inertia and fear of the unknown are more likely to be the reasons for information to remain locked up.
Opening up access to such information to employees can sometimes have magical consequences. Different minds notice different patterns, learn different things and arrive at different conclusion. The value of getting so many points of view cannot be calculated.
May be you are paying too much for a service which an employee knows how to get for cheaper. May be employees will notice that they are spending too much time on a client and the business is not making enough in return.
What to Share
Rather than making a list of information/documents that you want to share, you could do the opposite. Make a list of information/documents that you would not be comfortable sharing. Hope this will not be a very large list! Now go ahead and share the rest.
How to Share
A system like SOHODOX makes it really simply to put everything in one place so it becomes easy to share. The next big task is to decide how you will organize everything. After all if something cannot be easily found then sharing it would not be very useful. So decide the kind of folder hierarchy you will use to organize your documents, use tags (labels) liberally to provide multiple ways to find the same document. For example Invoices from January 2013 might go into the Invoices > Jan 2013 folder but you might want to additionally label each invoice as Unpaid or Paid.
If you come up with an intuitive system for finding documents, it will ensure that employees will use the same system while adding new documents. This will make your information repository more valuable with each passing day.
Notice if your system is being used and keep tweaking things based on feedback from staff. You should notice a drop in the number of times you are contacted for information by your staff. You should see staff accessing information by themselves and making decisions faster. In short not only will your business be more efficient but you will find more time to focus on other aspects of your business.
What better New Year gift could you ask for your business! So go ahead, share and enjoy!
In the spirit of sharing we would love it, if you shared this blog post with your colleagues and friends!