Essentials of office automation
What is document automation and how does it help you?
Your tech stack needs for your office space rental
When you are looking at renting out office space, there is a hell of a lot to consider. You need to think about whether you are looking to rent office space for long-term use and want a permanent location for starters. Or, do you want access to an area that your team members can occasionally use when they need some face time with others? In the post-COVID-19 climate, increasing numbers of businesses will likely fit into the latter description.
We will get onto some of the more traditional questions you need to answer about renting office space from a modern business perspective. However, I first want to tackle this from a different angle. I want to think about building an appropriate tech stack to ensure you can work efficiently and deliver excellent outcomes for your clients, whatever your office set up.
Why is your tech stack a critical consideration in this context?
It can be tempting when renting office space to ditch certain tech aspects from your business and move towards physical assets, especially for document storage. I once worked with a London-based brand that marketed itself as a tech disruptor in their industry. Yet, the lack of tech they used in their processes was almost unbelievable. They were not even using things as basic as cloud storage! When anything needed doing, you had to play a long-winded game of "email everyone until you find someone who can send you an attachment.”
Ridiculous. And yes, they rented office space, had people working in the office and remotely, coming and going at different times of the month and even throughout the day.
If that sounds like the working environment you want to create – and it may be a necessity these days – then your tech stack is your foundation for business growth. The purpose of your tech stack is to ensure your business can operate consistently, whether you have one person or the entire team in the office on a given day.
Here are the things you need as a minimum in your tech stack when renting office space.
What you need in your tech stack when renting office space
1. Document automation and storage
I mentioned document storage in my example earlier. However, in a modern business, you need to be thinking about creating documents just as much as where you will store them.
Most people realize that document creation can be hugely inefficient. However, those same people copy and paste and use the "Find/Replace" function in Word to make changes. They then wonder why their clients think they are unprofessional when documents are filled with errors.
Instead, you should be using document automation tools to ensure you can create the documents you need, wherever you are, every time. With a document automation tool like Contractbook, you can also easily collaborate, share, and store your documents.
2. Communication tools
Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to communication so your team can “be in the office” whether they are actually in the office or working somewhere else.
You can give your team some flexibility here, though. While you should use something like Slack for internal communication and even as a customer communication tool, if you have team members who prefer to communicate between themselves using WhatsApp, let them get on with it.
As long as you have a standardized communication stream for important messages and to deal with customer needs, what sits below is not that important if your communication processes are efficient.
Check out our guide to the best video conferencing software to learn more about what your options are.
3. CRM software
The business I mentioned earlier used HubSpot as its CRM solution but was not getting anything like the full usage benefits. They were pretty good at using it for lead collection and nurturing. However, instead of collaborating as a team within HubSpot and using the tools available, they would have conversations via email, Slack, Skype, and even Post It note!
CRM software is a must, and as you are going to pay for a subscription, you might as well make full use of it!
4. HR software
It is incredible how much cash you can burn by hiring extra office space for filing cabinets for physical documents. If you then move offices, you have to move all that with you!
Off-site document storage is not the answer here. Using HR software and ditching physical documents is.
5. Accounting software
The final mention of that London company I once worked with, and perhaps the best. They always had two huge piles of printed outgoing and incoming invoices to deal with pay and sent out to file. I never asked if they tracked invoices via Excel, although I might have done had they ever paid me late!
Financial documentation is another way to increase your storage costs while killing the planet. Use accounting software and make this digital, too.
6. Automation and integration support
Not something to include in your tech stack, but a requirement of every platform, tool, or app that you decide to use. All your tools should offer automation elements, whether that is in relatively simple terms like automating emails to leads or taking care of entire processes like payroll.
Integration is vital, too. If your tech stack cannot work together, you are sure to have an inefficiency somewhere. Use Zapier to check the available integrations for your tools and to bring them together without any coding.
What else to look for when renting office space
Of course, outside of a tech stack that will help your business deliver its objectives, there are many other things to consider when renting office space.
The five key considerations you need to make are:
- How much it costs. This might determine whether you go for a “permanent” office rental with a fixed lease or an arrangement more flexible that would almost be akin to hotdesking. If you have a great tech stack, you can operate your business efficiently without a permanent office. It is all about how you want your business and team to work.
- Where it is. If you want your team members to come into the office, you need to work somewhere attractive. Another business I worked with had their office above a pub in a beautiful part of London. Even with the ability to work from home, the place was always packed!
- What is nearby. This ties into where the office is. However, try to think more specifically about what amenities are around for your team to enjoy. If you love promoting employee wellbeing but are in the middle of an industrial estate with nowhere to go for a walk at lunchtime, does that speak to your values?
- On-site facilities. If you are looking at a permanent base for your business, what facilities are available on-site? Can your employees park their car there? Is there storage for people who cycle to work? What about showers for the cyclists and people who go for a run at lunchtime? Speaking of lunchtime, are there food facilities or a coffee shop in the building?
- Who is responsible for the boring stuff like repairs and maintaining the condition of the office. You do not want to receive an unexpected bill at the end of your lease or be banned from a shared working space because you did not realize you were responsible for X, Y, and Z!
How to approach your search for office space
Finding the perfect office space for your business used to be all about cost and how many desks you could fit into the smallest possible space. Forward-thinking companies had ditched the can of sardines approach to workspaces long before COVID-19. Still, there is much more to consider when looking for an office rental in the modern world.
Good luck with your search!