Six Ways Businesses Are Behind the Times

 
 
By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2014-03-16
 
 
 
advanced business technologies

It's 2014, and the digital age is well under way. Yet, many businesses seem hopelessly behind the times. To catch up and keep pace, business and IT executives need to focus on these critical areas:

E-signatures: Purchase a car, buy a house or try to sign a contract online, and you're typically presented with a problem: The system can't accommodate electronic signatures. Consequently, everyone winds up buried in paper, file cabinets and storage boxes—and we're forced to scan documents.

Adobe Echosign and Docusign offer easy-to-use solutions that ratchet up compliance and document discovery. The question is: Why are so few companies using them?

Document delivery: Recently, when I booked a cruise, Royal Caribbean and the affiliated shore excursion firm sent emails with links to automate the document delivery process. They described these as e-documents, but then informed me that I needed to print them out.

News bulletin: These aren't e-documents or e-tickets! They're paper tickets delivered through email! Although many firms—particularly airlines, hotels and ticket brokers—are sending documents electronically, a host of others are simply offloading their printing costs to the consumer. I think that stinks.

Electronic payments: For years, I've received some payments from clients through electronic funds transfer (EFT). Yet, many accounts payable departments still aren't set up to do this and continue to send out an endless stream of paper checks.

With a growing reliance on independent contractors and a focus on the digital enterprise, this situation lands somewhere between perplexing and flabbergasting. Electronic payments give organization greater control over funds, reduce administrative overhead and cut costs.

Loyalty programs: Pull out your wallet and peer inside. I'm betting there are lots of punch cards, gift cards and mag-stripe cards for an array of restaurants, retailers and more. Let's not even get into all the pieces of plastic hanging from your keychain.

Although a few retailers have placed their loyalty programs in smartphone apps (think Starbucks), most businesses are oblivious to the concept of integrating everything in a digital wallet.

Brochures and marketing content: I love PDF files. They're great, and Acrobat is an extremely useful program. But, c'mon! In an era of e-book readers, multimedia and rich content, you have to ask yourself why so many travel firms, retailers and others offer no more than a basic text and photo brochures for their products and services.

You want to get people excited about your product and make it look exciting? Add video, animations and photos to your e-brochures.

E-calendars: For the life of me, I can't understand why businesses—particularly local hairdressers, nail salons and others—don't have their appointment calendars online and let users download .ics data to populate their calendar apps.

For one thing, it's hugely convenient for everyone, and it eliminates the need to call and speak with a mistake-prone receptionist. However, there's something else that many business owners don't seem to fathom: It's an extremely valuable marketing tool for pushing out news, promotions, events and more.

So, business and IT execs, what are you waiting for?