Advances in Internet speed and computer processing power have resulted in increasing the speed of business. Negotiations that used to take months for letters to be exchanged back and forth can now be arranged by email in minutes. At the same time, the new global marketplace means that even small businesses often have clients around the country or overseas, some who they never meet face to face. This is great news for new and growing businesses looking to expand into serving original markets that aren't so tightly competitive. Obviously, communication is more important than ever and businesses have to use the best technological solutions to retain their most important clients. This process of turning to technological solutions for improvements in communication and operations is known as “virtualisation”.
Virtualisation in companies of various sizes
Deploying virtualisation to take advantage of the advances in technology has taken different forms for companies of various sizes. For new and growing companies, going virtual has allowed them to level the playing field with major corporations in terms of economies of scale and online reputation. In an online world, a small company with a great website can compete side by side with an international conglomerate. Smaller companies are actually at an advantage in the virtual world in terms of customer service. With fewer total customers, they are able to offer higher quality service with a personal touch. Retaining that reputation as they grow their customer base is one of the largest challenges that small businesses face.
Conversely, enterprise level organisations and established businesses have benefited by becoming more flexible in how they deal with prospective customers as well as by cutting through layers of management approval through implementing a more rapid communications system. Coordinating efforts and access to documents become big problems as more employees get involved with each business process. Larger companies and organisations also need virtual communication tools that allow them to respond quickly to customers like smaller companies, which can afford to spend more time on customer service.
The following reveals how many traditional ways of doing business are now "going virtual" by moving online:
What is an office? High rents and lean organisational principles have led many companies to ask this question over the past decade. Companies began to evaluate how cost effective it was to conduct business and hold onto their inventory in one specific location. This signaled the rise of “click-and-mortar” companies like eBay and Amazon over brick-and-mortar buildings. These new businesses existed entirely online, with rapid distribution systems taking the place of static inventory warehouses.
At the same time, collaborative consumption became a cost efficient way of sharing the expense of real estate. Applying the logic of residential leasing to business, companies began to buy office buildings and rent out space by the cubicle or even by the hour. These virtual centers allowed businesses to use only the office space that they required for specific tasks. Virtual offices have gained traction globally allowing established companies to expand into new localities more quickly and new companies to start up with virtually no capital investment.
Central to this new concept was the idea that the concept of an “office” is a virtual space where work gets done – and that can mean a hotel room, a company car or even the kitchen table.
There are really two definitions of “virtual assistant” and both have their place in the virtual revolution in very different ways. The more common definition of “virtual assistant” is someone that is not a full time employee but still performs essential business services on a contractual or a part-time basis. Virtual assistants were a boon for employees seeking greater work/life flexibility as well as being very profitable for businesses in reducing their fixed costs in salaries and benefits. It allowed smaller businesses the cash flow to grow and often hire these employees into full time positions when it became economically feasible. Virtual assistants normally specialize in the fields of administration, secretarial, medical, legal, creative and IT. Even sole proprietors gained the capability of competing with small to medium sized businesses through the effective use of virtual assistants.
Because virtual assistants are able to focus all their attention and development in one area which is their main source of income, they tend to be highly skilled in key areas that require intensive study and expertise, such as image design and social media marketing. Identifying the right virtual assistant for a company's stage in the business growth cycle can make a tremendous difference in terms of operational efficiency and sales conversion rates.
The less common definition of “virtual assistant” is one that originated in the early 1990's but is rapidly gaining resurgence in popularity. The new definition is a synonym for “personal digital assistant,” which is a mobile device running software that replaces most functions of the administrative and secretarial staff. Twenty years ago, mobile devices didn't have the processing power to run the kind of complex software that businesses require. At that time, powerful apps delivering data via the cloud wasn't even a distant dream. Today, however, mobile devices are more powerful than desktop PC's were a decade ago, according to Dell. Contemporary Internet data delivery speeds are far faster and doubling every 18 months. Now virtual assistants in the form of intelligent apps can analyze sales trends, develop important client insight, create wire-frame presentations and locate deals at nearby coffee shops. There are virtually no limits on what they can potentially accomplish.
Every business originates from a pain point. Often the market doesn't know exactly what it wants, but it is obvious that there is a problem that needs to be solved. Finding a solution to prospective customer pain points is the foundation of a business model. In a similar way, the “virtual revolution” among modern businesses has developed by examining inefficiencies in organisational processing and devising online solutions. One of the best examples of this type of Virtual Solution is the Internet fax service. Businesses began to adopt virtual fax software as a replacement of traditional fax because there are inherent limitations of being tied to a dedicated land line.
Imagine meeting with a prospect in a distant city. Your prospect is interested in what you have to offer. All they need is some more information faxed to them, such as company data, a presentation or a sales sheet. Today, you would have to contact a team member at the home office and just hope that they send the right document to the right contact at the prospect's business. Even then, the prospect might not recognize the name and disregard the fax. Or you could dash to the closest hotel or print shop and pay whatever they ask to fax the document, hoping that the prospect doesn't fax their response to the wrong fax number. Of course what normally happens is that you just assure the prospect that you will send them the documents they want when you return to your office, and the sale could be lost or even forgotten. With a virtual office, you gain the ability to respond on the spot, wherever you are, and fax the prospect what they need to close the transaction.
When a business adopts the concept of a virtual office, it no longer makes sense to return to the physical office to send and receive faxes. In contemporary businesses, the office can be anywhere with a reliable Wi-Fi signal or cellular data package. Now with a virtual fax service, employees in a virtual office can fax from home, from the road, or even during a meeting with a prospective client. Retrieving past faxes is much simpler as well when employees can just search an online database using keywords instead of digging through paperwork.
In short, both large and small businesses rely on virtual spaces, virtual workers, and virtual solutions. These are the three most important ways in which developments in Internet-based software have contributed to the “virtual revolution” in modern business.
The Role of Faxing in the Virtual Revolution
Traditional fax machines not only require a dedicated land line, but also take about 8 minutes on average to send a single fax. As efficiency studies demonstrate, just a few minutes wasted every day can add up to serious manpower expenses and opportunity costs over the course of a month. Internet fax via email is a much simpler process that allows multiple faxes to be sent and received at the same time. There is no need to interrupt normal business processes to contact a prospect or receive a proposal by fax. Replacing a traditional fax machine with an Internet fax also eliminates the need to wait by the machine for an important document to arrive. Incoming faxes can be routed to a specific folder for processing or email alerts can be set up to notify the right team member when an important fax arrives.
A virtual fax also helps businesses move closer to realizing the benefits of a paperless office. All the wasted paper and toner cartridges resulting from faxes that are just thrown away or recycled can be prevented by receiving faxes in your email and only printing out the ones you need. Instead of paper files that take up office space, can be misfiled, and must be shredded someday, companies can rely on faxes stored permanently in an online database. The fax that you need to refer to can be searched for by using keywords and brought onscreen in real time to complete the dispute or transaction immediately.
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