Even as Covid-19 appears to be quieting down, restrictions are being eased and vaccinations are being administered, there is little doubt that the way we all are doing business has changed significantly and permanently.
While people tend not to like change, we prefer to look at impacts like this as opportunities to be better, to improve and to learn. Some questions should be asked: How has our business changed because of COVID-19 and the lockdowns? How did we react? What changes did we make? And perhaps the most important question, what did we do in the response that makes us better employers for our Team and better partners for out clients?
Most business owners will tell you that to survive many had to be creative and implement safe and secure practices that did such things as:
- Provide for remote access to company resources
- Allow remote information submission and communication by employees
- Find new ways of gathering and exchanging what used to be basic information.
- Improving communication and the exchange of information between the company and clients/customers.
Businesses trying to solve these problems, looked to technology to try and find solutions. We’ve already reported on using technology to stay in communication with your remote employees (See https://pssolutionsdev.wpengine.com/news/?postid=1881 or visit our friends at WorkTok at www.WorkTok.com ) And while new technology keeps coming on to the market, as it turns out, one of the easiest fixes happens to be a technology and software development solution that has been around for years – the web portal.
Web portals are internet-based gateways that companies can create to grant specific (authorized and authenticated) persons to have access to company information and exchange data with the company. Those authorized and authenticated persons can be employees, customers, vendors, stockholders, virtually whatever the company choses.
Typically, the web portal is accessed through the company’s web page or can be a separate web page all together. Access typically requires authorization through passwords and/or other means of authentication. Once the access is obtained, then the user is able to access and exchange a wide variety of information, all without the need of direct contact with another person.
Just some of the things that can be done with a Web Portal include:
- Creation of schedules
- Submission of Time/Employee Work Hours
- Community calendars to allow scheduling between employees or other groups
- Completion and submission of company forms.
- Access of company policies and procedure documents, such as company handbooks, security policies, benefit information.
- Monitoring, scheduling, and tracking of other employee benefits such as paid time off, sick days, etc.
- Private company directories allow for access to co-employee contact information (approved by individual employees) which could provide email addresses and other contact information for remote or work-at-home employees.
- Separate management sections to allow managers and supervisors the ability to exchange information.
- Reporting, tracking, and storage features for all of the above. For example, timesheets submitted by employees can readily be saved for documentation purposes and the information can be shared with payroll and billing services to save additional time.
Even better still, this technology can be created at a very affordable cost and can be implemented relatively quickly.
The use of a Web Portal is not just for huge corporations. Small business with even as little as 10 or more employees can benefit from having a portal to handle a lot of tasks which otherwise would take up valuable time. Small business, not big enough to have separate staff members doing HR, Accounting, and Office Management find that the web portal keeps key administrative and management employees from being overwhelmed by the various tasks that now can be handled through the portal.
Portals can be used for far more than company administrative function. Web Portals can be created and used to help with:
- Accounting and Finance
- Project Management
- Human Relations
- Vendor Management
Just like almost everything else, the Portal can range from the very basic and least expensive to extremely complex and complicated processes. However, the good news is that even a basic Web Portal can provide a lot of increased efficiency for companies.
Probably, the five most popular uses of Web Portals to help deal with changes brought on in dealing with the Covid-19 Pandemic are:
- Submission of key time and billing information. Instead of employees dropping off time slips or emailing them (often not in a secure manner) and then having another employee such as a bookkeeper, office manager, etc. in turn having to enter the data, the employee just signs into the portal, submits and verifies their time for the week and the software in turn routes the information to payroll, billing, etc. Additionally, there is a record created of the time submitted that can be viewed by management individually or as part of a report generated by the portal.
- Scheduling/Shared Calendar. Team meeting can be scheduled and even announced through a shared calendar on the portal which can notify team members of who is available and when. It can also help control assignments made to different employees along with the deadlines for the tasks.
- Form submission. These options are particularly helpful in the onboarding process for new employees. Where historically the documents would be completed or reviewed in person, with the use of a Web Portal, the forms can be access and completed online, eliminating the need for face to face mailing and allowing for a secure means of exchanging and storing the information on the completed forms.
- Company directories. Let’s face it, when everybody was in the office, most of us could get ahold of team members by quickly dialing their extension numbers. Now, with many people working at home, figuring out how to get ahold of certain team members can be difficult. Web portals allow the creation and sharing of confidential employee directories that can be easily modified and updated as circumstances change. Employees can have the option of what information they are sharing about how to communicate with them.
- Management Access and Reporting. Management has ready access to a number of customizable reports without having to rely on someone else to gather and generate the data.
All in all, the Web Portal can be a relatively inexpensive means of improving efficiency and communication. Changes in the workforce toward increased work-from-home situations make the Web Portal even more valuable to businesses looking to find ways to adapt and improve in what looks to be an ever-changing business environment.
At PS Solutions, we love helping people use software and information technology to help people solve problems. Feel free to reach out with any questions you have or to drop me an email at email@example.com to find out what should be done next on your web portal project.
Wayne Hippo is an owner and Managing Partner of PS Solutions, a software outsourcing and consulting firm with offices in Altoona, PA, Pittsburgh, PA, and Wilmington, NC.
You can reach Wayne at firstname.lastname@example.org