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Taking practical steps to raise productivity
IN 2013, payroll software provider Times Software hit a bump in the road: its quality of services was not improving despite hiring more employees.
The firm's overall revenue was also not growing, and its operating expenses continued to climb.
Realising that the situation was not promising, the company decided to re-evaluate its way of doing business.
Times Software managing director Charles Liaw said that the company found out that it had been deploying staff inefficiently, and that caused its bottom line to suffer.
"We had very inefficiently over-utilised a significant amount of manpower and time in our software development, product implementation and service deliveries to our customers," he said. "We could not remain cost effective and competitive in the market."
The firm developed a three-pronged approach of retaining its staff, investing in technology and collecting feedback from customers to improve productivity.
First, Times Software decided to make staff retention a priority because it would be able to save on the costs of hiring and retraining new staff. It rolled out initiatives focusing on health, work-life balance and career advancement of its employees.
"We were able to keep staff turnover at 5 per cent every year. With good staff retention, we were able to produce more and cut down on costs of retraining new hires as much as six to nine months of the employee's salary," said Mr Liaw.
Second, the company invested in technology to make its software development and implementation processes more efficient. Software development was improved with automation and self-service facilities.
It also provided technological resources to help its staff working on software implementation do their jobs better.
For example, a database of stored information was developed and made available on the employee's Internet portal. Staff could use this library anytime to get answers to queries from customers.
An eWorkspace Project Management System was also introduced to track the progress of software implementation and speed up the process for projects which were falling behind schedule.
"By increasing the productivity of the implementers, we are to cut the implementation time by 40 per cent," said Mr Liaw.
Third, the company found that its customers' needs were becoming increasingly complex. A lack of understanding of their customers' requirements resulted in Times Software not be able to meet their needs and stalling or cancelling projects.
To address this issue, the company asked its customers for feedback on ways where it could improve its products and services, and introduced refresher software product trainings for customers.
"We also established a pre-sales team to work along with the sales department to analyse the customer's requirements and needs effectively," said Mr Liaw.
The moves were not revolutionary but they were practical steps applied to solve the productivity problem.
Mr Liaw said that Singapore companies should make use of government-funded schemes to boost their productivity. However, the problem is that many firms are not familiar with these schemes.
"The government can create more publicity through media advertising, news bulletins and social networks to increase awareness for these companies of the availability of these schemes. This will fuel productivity growth and improve Singapore's economy as a whole," he said.