Microsoft Outlook & Exchange Server (SaaS):
I’m going to start with the easy one as we all understand the benefits of e-mail in business. I know that anyone reading this will already have an email address (Gmail, Hotmail, eircom.net etc) so why change? Here’s why. For approx €6 per month, you can purchase a cloud based Exchange Server account which will give you the same functionality as employees in large corporations enjoy. All your e-mail / calendar / contacts / tasks are stored on this server which means they are accessible from your home computer, smartphone, office PC, iPad etc. The real benefit is that they are also Synchronised across all your devices, e.g. you add a new business contact on your iPhone at a meeting and it automatically appears on your work PC before you even get back to the office or you reply to an e-mail from your work PC and it automatically appears in sent items on your smartphone so you can re-check what you wrote when you are out and about. I get a lot of unimportant e-mails (don’t we all) and I find it really useful if I have 10 min free in the evening to just sift through these on my iPhone and delete them so that they are gone when I fire up my office PC the following morning and I can get straight to work.
I also think that e-mail flagging is fantastic and is under used. If you are in the habit of choosing “Mark Unread” for important e-mail’s, then you need to read on. Flagging basically means that once you read an e-mail you can click the “flag” icon at the top and this adds the e-mail to your to-do list in Outlook. Not only that, but you can choose when the email needs to be actioned. E.g. my co-worker emails me and ask’s me to contact a client tomorrow, I then choose the “tomorrow” flag and it automatically adds the email to this list. You can choose from Today, Tomorrow, This Week or Next Week so its a really handy way of prioritising your emails for actioning at a later date. Never again will that important e-mail get lost in your inbox. You can also “Flag” an e-mail from your smartphone so you remember to follow-up on it at work the following day. In our office we use internal e-mail to communicate most tasks for this reason, a nice neat To-Do list on our PC is much better than dozens of handwritten Post-It’s stuck onto the monitor!
The calendar functionality is also really useful as you can view, edit and add new appointments on the go. You can also share your calendar with colleagues if necessary.
As all the above data is stored online, you needn’t worry about backing up e-mail’s or attachments. You generally get loads of storage space so you should never need to delete an email again. MS Office also has a powerful search tool so you can easily find that important tender email you sent 6 months ago.
Once you have a really efficient and accessible e-mail system up and running you can start to do more via e-mail like, sending invoices / statements to customers and receive orders from them., request that suppliers e-mail you their invoices etc.
Using MS Outlook and linking it to an online exchange server helps you keep on top of tasks and communicate with clients from wherever you are. You and your staff will be more organised, more contactable and above all more efficient so that more time is available to focus on sales, which is what it’s all about!
What you need:
A copy of Microsoft Outlook installed on your PC’s
A smartphone with MS Exchange compatibility (most of them are compatible nowadays)
An MS Exchange account
Most of these also offer a free copy of the latest version of MS Outlook for you to downloa